HC Deb 11 March 1991 vol 187 cc353-5W
Mr. Oppenheim

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about NHS prescription and related charges and optical vouchers.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I have today laid before the House regulations for increases in prescription charges in the national health service in England and Wales which will take effect from 1 April 1991. The prescription charge will increase by 35p from £3.05 to £3.40. The increase of nearly 11.5 per cent. reflects the higher cost of the pharmaceutical services and will provide about £17 million extra income to the resources available to the health service in England and Wales.

The new charge will continue to represent less than half the cost of an average prescription to the NHS. The existing exemption arrangements under which about four out of five of all prescription items are provided free of charge remain unchanged. The four-monthly and annual prepayment certificates will continue to be available, the fees for which will increase from £15.80 and £43.50 to £17.60 and £48.50 respectively. The effect of the wide-ranging exemption arrangements and the continued availability of prepayment certificates is that a charge will be paid in respect of less than 20 per cent. of all items dispensed in the NHS.

The charges for elastic stockings and tights, fabric supports and wigs supplied through the hospital service will also be increased from 1 April, as set out in table A.

Turning now to general dental services, at present those patients who are liable to pay a dental charge contribute a fixed proportion—75 per cent.—of the cost of each course of treatment, up to a maximum of £150. The House has already been informed that we have no plans to increase the proportional charge. However, the maximum charge has remained unchanged since 1988 and, from 1 April 1991, it will be raised to £200.

I am pleased to announce increased help for people who receive vouchers towards the cost of their spectacles. Overall the value of spectacle vouchers will increase by 6 per cent. from 1 April and the most frequently prescribed A, B and D vouchers will go up by 7.2, 6.1 and 6.5 per cent. respectively. In addition we shall be making changes to the voucher regulations to ensure that people with certain unusual optical prescriptions will be entitled both to free NHS sight tests and to the highest value spectacle vouchers.

Voucher values for the hospital eye service will rise by 6 per cent. for spectacle vouchers and 11.5 per cent. for contact lens vouchers. The maximum charge payable by patients will also increase.

The revised voucher values are set out in table B.

Table A
New hospital service charges from 1 April 1991 (present charge in brackets)
Elastic Stockings and tights, wigs and fabric supports £ £
Each elastic stocking 3.40 (3.05)
Tights supplied through the hospital service 6.80 (6.10)
Surgical brassiere 14.50 (13.00)
Abdominal or spinal support 19.00 (17.00)
Stock modacrylic wig 29.00) (26.00
Partial human hair wig 74.50 (67.00)
Full bespoke human hair wig 108.00 (97.00)
Table B
National Health Service Spectacle Voucher Values
Voucher From 1 April 1991 £ Present value £
A 19.30 18.00
B 30.50 28.75
C 48.00 47.00
D 37.00 34.75
E 61.00 59.75
F 102.00 100.00
G1 102.00 100.00
H1 232.15 228.85
Complex lenses
Single vision 3.60 3.50
Bifocal 19.25 18.75
Prisms per lens
Single vision 4.10 4.00
Bifocal 5.10 5.00
Tints per lens
Single vision 2.05 2.00
Voucher From 1 April 1991 £ Present value £
Bifocal 2.55 2.50
Photochromic per lens1
Single vision 2.05 2.00
Bifocal 2.55 2.50
Small Frame Supplement 35.20 34.50
Supplement for Special Facial Characteristics1 35.20 34.50
1 Hospital Eye Service
2 Per Lens