§ Mr. McCrindle
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he has taken to satisfy himself that the proposed arrangements for the charging of National Health Service spectacles take account of the position of the visually handicapped and those requiring complex lenses; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
The visually handicapped and others who require complex lenses and who do not qualify for full or partial remission of charges will be able, if they wish, to obtain their spectacles through the general ophthalmic service at charges which reflect he full economic cost of supply.
We consulted very widely on our proposals for regulations to give effect to this arrangement. We have responded to the representations we received and, as a result, the National Health Service (General Ophthalmic Services) Amendment Regulations 1985 (SI 1985 No 298) contain a much wider definition of a complex lens than we originally proposed.
§ Mr. Pavitt
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the difference between technical non-tolerance, as allowed for after a cataract operation in the new arrangements for National Health Service spectacles, and non-tolerance generally; and what are the time limits imposed on applications for a second pair of spectacles.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
The hospital eye service statement of fees and charges makes clear that where the ophthalmologist is satisfied that a patient is genuinely unable to use lenses which have been prescribed and supplied and that lenses to a new prescription are necessary, the total National Health Service charges payable by a patient are those for the lenses finally in the patient's possession. This is referred to as a case of non-tolerance. I understand that many health authorities make use of this provision to ensure that, while the condition of a patient's eye settles, for instance after a cataract operation, the patient does not have to pay charges for each of a series of glasses provided. Since this results from the changing condition of the eye, it is often referred to as "technical" non-tolerance. It would be up to the authority to determine how long in a particular case or cases to apply this provision. The practice will not be altered by the new arrangements for dispensing in the General Ophthalmic Services.