HC Deb 10 March 1958 vol 584 cc17-8
29. Mrs. L. Jeger

asked the Minister of Health what consultations he has had with the British Medical Association about special prescribing arrangements for the chronic sick in order to reduce their expenditure on essential medicaments.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I have had correspondence and discussions with the Association's General Medical Services Committee on this subject. As a result, arrangements have been made for a new dressings pack. I shall continue to take all practicable measures to avoid hardship to the chronic sick.

Mrs. Jeger

Does the Minister recall that, during the debate when these charges where first introduced, specific undertakings were given by his predecessors that special arrangements would be made to help the chronic sick, people suffering from colostomy and complaints of that kind? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that none of the composite packs which have so far been produced, including the one he mentioned, includes any drugs for treatment at all and that there is profound disappointment at what has happened in this connection?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The new pack will be available in about two months' time. As to the quantity of drugs, it is within a doctor's discretion to prescribe quantities of medicine sufficient for a reasonably long period in suitable cases where he is sure that the need will continue.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the Minister aware that this statement is most unfortunate—that patients in this country are given such large quantities of drugs, pills and medicines which they cannot possibly consume, and that the justification of the doctors is that the Minister now and on a previous occasion has not only asked but has encouraged them to prescribe these very large quantities?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Now I am being urged in opposite directions by the right hon. Lady and the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mrs. L. Jeger). It is only in cases where a doctor is convinced that there is a chronic condition which will last for a long time and in which the medicine will be required over a long period that he should use his discretion so to prescribe. If we can improve this system, we will do so. We shall be getting guidance from Sir Henry Hinchliffe's Committee on the possibility of economising in prescribing without detriment to the patient