HC Deb 09 March 2004 vol 418 cc1452-3W
Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the cost of implementing a policy for free(a) eye and (b) dental check-ups for all NHS patients. [155965]

Ms Rosie Winterton

Sight tests under national health service arrangements are already available to certain priority groups. These include, children, those aged 16–18 in full-time education, people on low incomes and defined categories of people at particular risk of developing eye disease. In April 1999 we extended sight tests to all people aged 60 and over.

Based on the most recent data available of the number of private sight tests, the cost of extending NHS sight tests to this group, at the 2002–03 rate of £16.72, would be an additional £80 million for England. The total cost would be increased if the change stimulated demand for more eye examinations. Costs could also be affected if the change in the scope of the NHS service was associated with any review of the sight test fee payable to optometrists.

About a quarter of dental examinations carried out on adults in the general dental service (GDS) involve patients who are exempt from charges or who qualify for a reduced charge.

If dental examinations were made free to all adults in England, patient charge revenue would be reduced by around £85 million per annum.

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