House of Commons Library

The prescription charge and other NHS charges

Published Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This briefing outlines the provisions for prescription, dental and other NHS charges under NHS legislation.

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The National Health Service Act 1946, which set up the NHS in England and Wales, contained a provision that NHS services should be provided free of charge unless that Act expressly provided for a charge. This provision has been carried forward into the legislation which replaced the 1946 Act – the NHS Act 1977 and subsequently the NHS Act 2006.

Since the founding of the NHS, amendments to legislation have been made allowing charges for NHS services including prescription, dental and optical charges. There are also charges for facilities not covered by NHS legislation, such as hospital car parking.

This note sets out the provisions for prescription and dental charges, which groups are exempt, and explains where charges vary in devolved countries. It additionally covers efforts to reduce prescription wastage, including new Goverment plans to publish the actual cost to the NHS on prescription items over £20.

It also briefly examines the future of NHS charges. In the context of financial pressure on the NHS, there have been proposals to introduce additional charges for services, such as GP appointments. However, the Health Secretary has recently confirmed that there are no plans to introduce a charge for GP appointments.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7227

Author: Elizabeth Parkin

Topics: Health finance, Health services, Medicine

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