HC Deb 14 May 1962 vol 659 cc909-10
13. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Health whether he will end the practice by which doctors are asked by executive councils to write false prescriptions in order to discover whether pharmacists are defrauding the National Health Service.

Miss Pitt

I assume the hon. Member refers to the scheme for test prescriptions. No, Sir.

Dr. King

Is the hon. Lady aware that many doctors regard it as unprofessional that they should have to act as private detectives or, indeed, almost as agents provocateurs for the Ministry? Would she give serious consideration to whether there is not some more honourable method of testing the capacity of pharmacists to make up prescriptions?

Miss Pitt

I do not think it is necessary to consider changing the system. It has served since before 1948 under the old Health Insurance Scheme. In general it has the support of the medical and pharmaceutical professions. Its prime purpose is to protect the patient. The hon. Member may like to know that there is in effect a conscience clause and that if a doctor does not want to write test prescriptions the executive council is empowered to take that point into account.

Sir H. Linstead

Since there is no testing scheme for doctors dispensing or for hospitals dispensing, why should there be a testing scheme only for the retail chemist?

Miss Pitt

This is a test in the same way as test purchases are sometimes made under the Food and Drugs Act. As I say, it has a long history and its intention is to protect the patient.