HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc45-7WS
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 2005. There will be a cash increase in the prescription charge of 10 pence from £6.40 to £6.50 for each quantity of a drug or appliance dispensed.

The cost of prescription prepayment certificates will rise from £33.40 to £33.90 for a four-month certificate and from £91.80 to £93.20 for an annual certificate. These offer savings for those needing more than five items in four months or 14 in one year.

Some 86 per cent of prescription items are dispensed in the community free of charge with another five per cent of items dispensed to holders of prepayment certificates at no additional charge at the point of dispensing.

Around 50 per cent of the population are entitled to free prescriptions including:

Men and women aged 60 and over

Children under 16

Young people aged 16, 17 and 18 who are in full-time education

Pregnant women and women who have had a child in the previous 12 months and who hold a valid exemption certificate

People who hold a valid exemption certificate for a war disablement but only in respect of medication for the disablement

People suffering from certain medical conditions and who hold a valid exemption certificate

People or their partners who get:

Income support

Pension credit guarantee credit

Income-based jobseeker's allowance

Tax credit where income is £15,050 per year or less and meets qualifying conditions.

People on low incomes who qualify under the NHS low income scheme

Prescription charges are expected to raise some £452 million for the NHS in 2005–06.

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 2005 will increase from £378 to £384. Only around two in every 1,000 dental courses of treatment incur the maximum charge.

The prescription charge increase is the same as in the previous six years and is well below the current level of inflation. The other increases are in line with this percentage increase.

In order to continue to provide help with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses to children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems, optical voucher values will rise by 2.5 per cent.

NHS charges and optical voucher values in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a matter for the devolved administrations.

Details of the revised prescription, maximum dental charge and optical voucher values have been placed in the Library.