§ Mr. Harvey
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the total cost to the NHS of(a) instituting charges per script and (b) allowing prescription charges to be paid by instalments; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Ms Stuart
Based on 1998–99 figures for charges collected by pharmacists and dispensing doctors in England, it is estimated that around £50 million in prescription charge revenue would have been lost if the prescription charge had been paid for each chargeable form rather than each item. It is likely that there would also be additional costs to the drugs bill arising from the prescribing of items which can be purchased from pharmacies for less than the prescription charge. The current process of paying prescription charges is widely understood by the public and simple to administer. Introducing payment by instalments is impractical as it would unnecessarily complicate the current arrangements and require additional bureaucracy to keep track of instalment payments for each charge payable.