House of Commons Library

The prescription charge and other NHS charges

Published Friday, April 20, 2018

This House of Commons Library briefing outlines the provisions for prescription, dental and other NHS charges under NHS legislation, which groups are exempt from charges, and where charges vary in the devolved nations.

Jump to full report >>

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 briefing paper sets out the provisions for prescription charges, which groups are exempt, and explains where charges vary in the devolved nations. It also covers debates related to prescription costs, around repeat prescriptions and medicines wastage.

In addition, dental charges in the four UK nations, wig and fabric support charges, and provisions for free eye tests and optical vouchers are also explored.

Also examined briefly the future of NHS charges. In the context of financial pressure on the NHS, there have been calls for the introduction of additional charges for services, such as GP appointments, although there have been no Government plans to introduce further charges.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7227

Authors: Elizabeth Parkin; Alex Bate

Topics: Health finance, Health services, Medicine

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.