§ Ms Walley
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the health impact on patients of having to pay for prescriptions; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what plans he has to extend the existing exemptions from prescription charges; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Ms Blears
I apologise to my hon. Friend for the delay in responding to this question. I refer her to the reply that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) on 5 March 2002,Official Report, column 192W.
I have at present no plans to change the current exemption and remission arrangements which are intended to ensure that no-one need be deterred from obtaining any necessary medication on financial grounds. Around 85 per cent. of items are dispensed free of charge and around 50 per cent. of the population do not have to pay charges.