HC Deb 30 November 1987 vol 123 cc466-8W
Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has of the number of people who will be exempt from dental and optical test charges.

Mr. Ralph Howell

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the various categories of people who(a) are exempt from prescription charges at present and (b) will be exempt from eye-testing and dental inspection charges under the proposed legislation, stating the potential numbers of each category and showing what percentage of the population these exemptions represent.

Prescription charge exemptions
Mid 1986 figures January–December 1986
Number of people (thousands) Percentage of population Number of prescription items (millions) Percentage of total
Men over 65 and women over 60 8,624.2 18.0 129.6 40.0
Children under 16 9,606.4 20.0 36.6 11.0
Persons receiving:
(i) Supplementary Allowance 13,390.0 7.7 236.3 11.0
(ii) Family Income Supplement 1260.0
Pregnant and nursing mothers and patients with specified medical conditions 3 41.0 2.0 517.4 5.0
War pensioners 0.1 0.9 0.3
Other exempt categories6 7 20.5 6.0
Sub total 23,582.7 8241.3 873.3
Total 47,254.9 322.5
1 Claimants and adult dependants.
2 Also includes people not entitled to benefit but who qualify on low income grounds.
3 Separate figures for those who qualify because they have a specified medical condition are not available.
5 Includes both exempt categories.
6 Exemption declared but category not shown.
7 Information not available.
8 Does not include contraceptive devices supplied free of charge.
The following groups will be exempt from dental inspection charges and have entitlement to free NHS sight tests:
Number Per cent. of population
Children under 16 9,606,000 20.3
People under 19 in full-time education 702,000 1.5
Family Income and Supplementary Benefit Claimants and their Partners 5,351,000 11.3
The following will also be exempt from dental inspection charges:
Expectant mothers and women who have had a baby in the previous 12 months 11,000,000 2.1
People aged 16 and 17 not in full-time education 1,494,000 3.2
1 Estimate.


(1)Figures are for England, 1986.

(2)Some of the above categories will overlap, eg some mothers could be entitled to free dental inspections on grounds both of status and low income.

Help will also be available in the form of full or partial remission of the dental inspection charge for people on low income. It is not possible to give an estimate of those likely to benefit in this way though the numbers are expected to be small.

In addition it is proposed to make regulations giving the registered blind and partially sighted and those entitled to complex lens supplements under the optical voucher scheme entitlement to free NHS sight tests. Some 200,000, (0.4 per cent, of the population) would benefit from this.

Mr. Newton

The information requested is not available in respect of all categories of exemption from prescription charges. The table gives the available information expressed as percentages of the take-up of the relevant services.