HC Deb 11 December 1967 vol 756 cc19-20
15. Mr. Tilney

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to expedite the setting up of treatment centres for drug addicts; and whether special funds will be granted to regional hospital boards for this purpose.

Mr. K. Robinson

Additional facilities for the treatment of heroin addiction are being set up as quickly as possible, mainly in the London area, and my Department is in close touch with the hospital authorities. The cost is not expected to be very large in relation to the funds available to regional hospital boards and I do not contemplate that special financial arrangements will be necessary. Consideration is given to any case of difficulty.

Mr. Tilney

Will it not take a long time before the whole country is covered by these treatment centres? If extra funds are not to be provided, will not other facilities have to be cut? Can the Minister say whether in the meantime general practitioners will be able to continue to prescribe for drug addicts?

Mr. Robinson

Yes, Sir. On many occasions I have made it clear to the House that the ban on general practitioners prescribing will not be operative until we are satisfied that sufficient treatment facilities exist in the hospital service. But outside London there is no evidence that the current demand for treatment is not being met. This is very largely a London problem.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister aware that facilities in the London area for the treatment of drug addicts are woefully inadequate? Will he say what they are and what they are likely to be within the next few weeks?

Mr. Robinson

I do not accept that they are woefully inadequate. I have said that we have not yet completed the total of facilities which we want to be available for the time when the new arrangements come into operation. At the end of October there were about 70 patients receiving in-patient treatment and 180 receiving out-patient treatment for heroin addiction in some 40 hospitals.

Lord Balniel

Can the Minister explain why he will not name the hospitals where he is setting up treatment centres for drug addicts? Until we know the names it is almost impossible to assess the progress which is being made.

Mr. Robinson

I do not agree that it is impossible to assess the progress being made. I have given the numbers. The reason why we do not give the names of the hospitals is that it is unwise to release names if we are to prevent addicts rushing to a number of hospitals in succession, but generally practitioners in the London area have been told where treatment is available.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that in the setting up of treatment centres, particularly out-patient treatment centres, adequate care will be given to providing social welfare staff as otherwise these centres will be almost valueless?

Mr. Robinson

I would not say that they will be almost valueless, but I agree with the implication of the question that proper social welfare assistance is very important indeed.

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