HC Deb 09 May 1978 vol 949 cc954-5
4. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received concerning the Medicines (Prescriptions Only) Order 1977.

Mr. Moyle

Representations have been received from medical, dental, nursing and pharmaceutical organisations, trade associations, other interested bodies and individual companies concerning various aspects of the order.

Mr. Shersby

Why will this order prevent dentists from prescribing fluoride products whereas a general medical practitioner will be able to do so? Will fluoride products have to carry a poison label? If so, will not many parents be prevented from choosing fluoride products as dental supplement for their children in the interests of dental health?

Mr. Moyle

No, the products will not need to carry a poison label. That is a misconception. It is also a misconception that the order is responsible for dentists not being able to supply fluoride products on prescription. This is because of the historical organisation of the National Health Service and the fact that the dental profession, generally speaking, has not been willing to take continuing clinical responsibility for patients once a course of dental treatment is over.

Mr. Hodgson

As the implementation of this instrument has been delayed for six months, does the Minister agree that the Government's handling of it has been extremely clumsy and has caused further problems to local chemists' shops, which are now closing in record numbers?

Mr. Moyle

The Government's handling of the order has been remarkably sensitive to general opinion. We have allowed representations to be made in order to ensure that the various professions are in a position to administer the order.

Mr. Stephen Ross

None the less, the Minister must accept that chemists' shops, particularly in rural areas, are still closing at too high a rate. Will he say whether he has yet managed to settle the claim for increased remuneration?

Mr. Moyle

The hon. Members for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and Walsall, North (Mr. Hodgson) are under a misapprehension. There has been a remarkable and rapid reduction in the rate of closure of chemists' shops. The offer which my right hon. Friend has made to the pharmaceutical profession is designed to protect small pharmacies that were in danger of closing. We are carefully monitoring the outcome of that offer.