HC Deb 30 April 1968 vol 763 cc978-9
4. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Health if he will now review the provisions for the treatment of drug addicts in order to provide round-the-clock clinic facilities.

Mr. K. Robinson

Facilities for the treatment of heroin addiction are being kept under review. For the reasons given in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) on 26th March, 24-hour outpatient clinics are not considered necessary or desirable.—[Vol. 761, c. 246.]

Mrs. Short

Does my right hon Friend accept that many doctors working in the field of addiction are convinced that patients cannot be treated successfully simply on an out-patient basis? Will he further consider the action he has taken with regard to the Chelsea addiction centre, which is a centre of this kind, where the doctors are now prevented from prescribing heroin to their patients? Is he aware that they treated more than 120 patients last year and that about one-third of the patients were currently receiving heroin? Will he please look at this whole aspect again?

Mr. Robinson

On the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I am aware that there is always more than one view on almost every subject in any profession, not least the medical profession, but the consensus of opinion is in the sense of my reply. I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I gave the most careful consideration to the decision whether or not to license the doctors at the Chelsea addiction clinic. One of them has now accepted an appointment in the hospital service and is treating patients as a licensed hospital doctor under consultant supervision.

Mr. Dean

Will the Minister comment on the disturbing reports now coming in about a growing black market in drugs following the introduction of the new arrangements?

Mr. Robinson

This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I understand that the reports are regarded as exaggerated.

Mr. Deedes

Is the Minister aware that as far as the main Question is concerned some of us at least have come round to his point of view? If there is to be a choice between requiring clinics to conform to the addicts or requiring addicts to conform to the clinics there is a great deal to be said for the second alternative.

Mr. Robinson

I am grateful to the right hon Gentleman. That is certainly the advice that has been tendered to me.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Can my right hon. Friend give some idea of how many addicts are coming forward to the clinics at present?

Mr. Robinson

We were to have had an opportunity of debating this matter last night, but we were frustrated. Off the cuff, I think that the answer is that about 700 addicts are on the books of hospitals serving the London area at present.