§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner)
My honourable friend the Minister of State (Ms Rosie Winterton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
We shall lay before the House regulations to increase National Health Service charges in England from 1 April 2004. There will be a cash increase in the prescription charge of 10 pence from £6.30 to £6.40 for each quantity of a drug or appliance dispensed.
The cost of prescription prepayment certificates will rise to £33.40 for a four-month certificate and £91.80 for an annual certificate. These offer savings for those needing more than five items in four months or 14 in one year.
Prescription charges are expected to raise some £462 million for the NHS in 2004–05.
Charges for elastic stockings and tights, wigs and fabric supports supplied through the hospital service will be increased similarly.
The maximum patient charge for a single course of dental treatment begun on or after 1 April 2004 will increase from £372 to £378.
The prescription charge increase is the same as in the previous five years and is well below the current level of inflation. The other increases are in line with this percentage increase.
The majority of optical voucher values will increase by 2.5 per cent to help children and people on low income with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses In recognition of the greater costs which people with high prescription lenses may face, vouchers for these individuals will increase by 10 per cent. We will continue to monitor the costs of high prescription lenses over the coming year to see if further changes are necessary.55WS
NHS charges and optical voucher values in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a matter for the devolved administrations.
Details of the revised charges and optical voucher values have been placed in the Library.