National Health Service Charges
Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Health

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds

Mr Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

asked the Minister of Health what consideration has been given to a review of the situation arising from the decision to double the National Health Service prescription charges; and what has been the result.

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds

Mr Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

Can the right hon. Gentleman deny that he has had many representations about the hardships of this prescription charge? Is he aware that at a recent conference the chairman of the B.M.A. stated that the Minister had given him a personal undertaking that he would review this between six and eight months after the scheme had been introduced? Is this correct?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

I would not say that I have entered into a commitment as to six to eight months, but I have said that later it will be possible to see much better than we can see at present how this is working. There is no immediate ground that I can see for a special inquiry.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson

Mr Kenneth Robinson (St Pancras North)

Has not the time come to make this investigation, since the Minister told the House that he based his evidence on a fall of 7½ million in prescriptions over 12 months and there has been a fall of more than 6½ million in the first three months since the prescription charge went up? Is not that a good reason for re-investigating the position now?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

No, Sir. The number of factors which affect prescriptions in an individual month is so variable—

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

It is impossible even on a quarter to judge the trend. In the last two months for which statistics are available the number of prescriptions was broadly in line with previous years.

Photo of Mr William Griffiths

Mr William Griffiths (Manchester Exchange)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Manchester Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Charles Royle

Mr Charles Royle (Salford West)

asked the Minister of Health if he proposes to take any action as a result of the protest, sent to him by the Salford Local Executive Council, on the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr George Craddock

Mr George Craddock (Bradford South)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Bradford Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Mrs. Slater:

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Stoke-on-Trent Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Stephen Davies

Mr Stephen Davies (Merthyr Tydfil)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the representations made to him by the Merthyr Tydfil Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis

Mr Arthur Lewis (West Ham North)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the West Ham Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey

Mr Frederick Willey (Sunderland North)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Sunderland Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Arthur Moody

Mr Arthur Moody (Gateshead East)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Gateshead Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Harry Randall

Mr Harry Randall (Gateshead West)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Gateshead Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Ifor Davies

Mr Ifor Davies (Gower)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the Glamorgan Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr Albert Oram

Mr Albert Oram (East Ham South)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take in response to the protest sent to him by the East Ham Local Executive Council with regard to the increased National Health Service charges.

Photo of Mr William Griffiths

Mr William Griffiths (Manchester Exchange)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a rather irresponsible answer? Bearing in mind that these executive councils comprise representatives of professional people—the family doctor, the pharmacist and the dentist—in daily contact with those at the receiving end of the Health Service, representatives of local authorities and nominees of the Minister, does he not think that their representations should be treated more seriously? Does he not also think that to treat people in this way is a great discouragement to their coming forward to take part in voluntary administrative services in the National Health Service?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

I have certainly taken note of the views expressed by these bodies, and have done so with full seriousness, but there is nothing in them to weigh against the reasons that brought this House to its decision earlier this year.

Photo of Mr George Craddock

Mr George Craddock (Bradford South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman not heed the protests made by these executive councils which have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths) has said, very many professional representatives on them? If the Government are not prepared to do so, does it not prove the incompetence of the present administration; and that they should get out?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

I have no evidence that the arrangements are not working satisfactorily or are creating hardship, but I have offered—and this, I am sure, is known to the executive councils—to consider in detail any evidence of ways in which the arrangements are not working satisfactorily or of hardship that is arising.

Mrs. Slater:

Does the Minister realise that his previous replies have always been that he has not had enough evidence from us, but that his reluctance to do anything has been due to political objections? These are the people who are doing the day-to-day work and are in contact with the various bodies? Does he not think that this kind of answer is an insult to these people who are doing the job?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

The fact remains that these resolutions do not contain any evidence bearing upon the matter, but I would wish it to be clearly understood that my reply does not involve any discourtesy to the bodies concerned.

Photo of Mr Stephen Davies

Mr Stephen Davies (Merthyr Tydfil)

Has the Minister taken the trouble to communicate with these very large numbers of executive councils, who really are the best judges of matters of this kind, and to ask them why they protest against the changes he has made? Will he not, on reflection, realise that his answer to these protests amounts to an almost contemptuous disregard of the feelings and of the knowledge possessed by these executive councils?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

On the contrary, a month or two ago I received a deputation from the association that represents all these bodies. I discussed this matter with them, and I indicated the reasons why the Government and the House had come to their decisions.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner

Mr Barnett Janner (Leicester North West)

Why did the Minister set up these executive councils if he is not prepared to accept the views they express after proper consideration? Will he tell the House how satisfied the members of the deputation were with the answer he says that he gave them when they saw him?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

I reminded them of the arrangements that had been made for avoidance of any hardship, and I repeated to them my readiness to receive any advice or evidence upon the working of these arrangements, or upon their effect.

Photo of Mr John Dugdale

Mr John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

Has the right hon. Gentleman read these protests? Is he aware that, in particular, the West Bromwich executive council protested because it felt that those on fixed incomes just above the National Assistance level would suffer very considerable hardship from this change? Is he also aware that that executive council felt that the Changes would produce more barriers between patients and doctors, which concerned the council very much indeed?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

There is no evidence in recent movements of prescription statistics that the change is proving a barrier in the way anticipated; the arrangements of which I have often spoken in this House and elsewhere for avoiding hardship are not limited to those in receipt of regular National Assistance payments.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson

Mr Kenneth Robinson (St Pancras North)

In the light of these, and many other protests that the Minister has received, will he at least say when he is prepared to review these arrangements, if only out of courtesy to the executive councils query?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

It is obvious that as the months 20 on we shall be in a better position to judge the actual effect, but I repeat that it is still much too early to be able to form any sound view of the way in which these arrangements are operating.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner

Mr Barnett Janner (Leicester North West)

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that 48 local executive councils have now written to him protesting against the increased charges for prescriptions, and that these councils were appointed by him, he will take steps to meet the request of the Leicester Executive Council and their colleagues by removing these charges.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas

Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester North East)

asked the Minister of Health whether he will reconsider his rejection of the advice of Leicester Executive Council to remove the increased National Health Service charges, in view of the similar advice given by a large number of executive councils throughout the country.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner

Mr Barnett Janner (Leicester North West)

In the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), can the Minister say whether there is a dog's chance of any of the prescriptions being reduced?

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas

Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester North East)

Is not the trouble that the approach by the Minister to these matters is entirely different from that of the executive councils in that the Minister is concerned with Treasury economy while the executive councils are concerned with the welfare of the community?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

Not merely with economy, but the Government must take a wider and more comprehensive view than that of the executive councils.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen

Mr Reginald Sorensen (Leyton)

asked the Minister of Health if he has considered the representations made to him by the Essex Local Executive Council and other Essex authorities and organisations in respect of the 2s. prescription charge; what reply he has given regarding the hardship arising from the increased charges; approximately what has been the increase in receipts derived from this charge in the Essex area; and what reduction of prescriptions there has been.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

Yes, Sir; and I have explained the arrangements for avoiding hardship. In the four months March to June, about 84 per cent. and 8 per cent. respectively, compared with 1960.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen

Mr Reginald Sorensen (Leyton)

Would not the Minister agree that the representations made by this body are both significant and impressive, and could the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House what reply he gave to the arguments adduced by this body? Would he also agree that there is evidence of a certain amount of hardship due to the increase in prescription charges?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

I say again that I stand ready to receive any evidence of cases of hardship and to look into them individually.

Photo of Mr John Dugdale

Mr John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take to mitigate the effect of the increased National Health Service charges on persons in West Bromwich.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell

Mr Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West)

None beyond the arrangements already announced for avoidance of hardship; but if the right hon. Member has any specific case in mind, I shall be glad to look into it.

Photo of Mr John Dugdale

Mr John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I thought that this Question had already been answered. It was impossible to hear whether or not that was so at the time.