The total net payment by the Exchequer for prescriptions dispensed by chemists and dispensing doctors in Great Britain—excluding administrative costs—was approximately £85 million in 1963–64 and £104 million in 1964–65; the provisional figure for 1965–66 is £149 million.
I am afraid that the administrative costs and the costs of prescriptions for hospital outpatients are not separately distinguished in the accounts.
I should not like to forecast what will happen next year. We have had many exchanges in the House about the very complex reasons for the increase in the number of prescriptions. Even with the increase, the number of prescriptions per head of the population last year was still fractionally below the figure of about 11 years previously.
Does the right hon. Gentleman sincerely believe that the very large extra cost of abolishing prescription charges is being more wisely spent for that purpose than it would be on other considerable needs in the Health Service, such as cervical cancer smears, more maternity beds in hospitals, more modern equipment, family planning facilities, and so on?