§ Mr. Andrew Bowden
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will extend the list of those entitled to free national health service prescriptions to include those suffering from serious mental illness.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
No. As the result of the present wide-ranging exemption arrangements, over 75 per cent. of all items dispensed in the NHS are provided free. Many patients with mental illness benefit from these arrangements. Those who are not exempt but who need a lot of medication can save money by buying prescription prepayment certificates, or season tickets. Those certificates can lead to significant savings for anyone needing more than 14 items in a year or five items in a four-month period.
To extend the exemption arrangements for all patients who suffer from mental illness would benefit only those whose resources exceed the qualifying threshold for help on low income grounds and would not make the best use of the resources available to the NHS.