HC Deb 06 April 1971 vol 815 cc229-31
12 and 13. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what facilities there are in Watford for having urgent prescriptions dispensed after the normal closing hours for chemists;

(2) if he will seek powers to make compulsory the provision within the area of each local authority of a chemist who will be on call after normal closing hours for dispensing urgent prescriptions and to compel chemists throughout the country to display in the windows of their shops a notice giving the name, address and telephone number of the nearest such chemist.

Mr. Alison

Executive councils can arrange for selected pharmacies to remain open for limited periods after normal closing hours in order to dispense National Health Service prescriptions and for other pharmacies to display notices indicating their location. This is done in Watford. In addition, many chemists are willing to dispense at any time prescriptions marked "urgent" by a doctor. Doctors are normally aware which chemists are so willing and executive councils have been advised to supply lists of them to the police. There are eight such chemists in Watford.

Mr. Tuck

Is the Under-Secretary aware that a death and a near-death occurred in Watford because when the doctor in each case had written an urgent prescription after hours no one in Watford, not even the hospitals, knew of a chemist which was open, and this resulted in a tragedy in one case? Will the Minister adopt the suggestion contained in Question 13 so as to preclude the possibility of such tragedies occurring in future?

Mr. Alison

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for writing to me on this subject. I wish to express my deep regret at the shocking death to which he referred. I will certainly look into all the circumstances surrounding these cases. I hope that he will note that there are chemists, the existence of which should be more widely known in Watford, which were and are open at these times.

Mr. Kinsey

Will my hon. Friend look further into this problem, because it is not only outside normal hours that we are beginning to have trouble? In the Birmingham district the greatest difficulty is being experienced in getting chemists' shops set up on outlying estates. Will my hon. Friend have talks with the pharmaceutical bodies to see what can be done to get these facilities established in these areas?

Mr. Alison

I should be glad if my hon. Friend would send me details of any cases he has in mind. Executive councils have facilities for encouraging and helping pharmacists to set up in areas which do not have large centres of population.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Has the Under-Secretary any evidence of a growing practice of people striking items out from doctors' prescriptions because of the cost of the items? If this happens in any case or in many cases, is it not a very serious matter?

Mr. Alison

That is a very much wider question. If the hon. Gentleman will write to me about any such cases, I will certainly look into them. I have no such evidence myself.

Mr. Ashton

Is the Under-Secretary aware that in rural areas the problem of the scarcity of chemists is reaching serious proportions? Will he investigate the possibilities of having more mobile chemists in rural and suburban areas who can arrange to be in certain places to fill prescriptions at a certain time each week? This would be of great help in country areas where pensioners, for example, have to travel great distances and pay high fares to get prescriptions filled.

Mr. Alison

I note the suggestion contained in the latter part of the supplementary question. If the hon. Gentleman will specify the rural areas he had in mind in putting the first part of his supplementary question, I will certainly look into the matter.