HC Deb 28 July 1998 vol 317 cc165-6
11. Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

What proposals he has to reduce the incidence of over-medication of the elderly. [50986]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Paul Boateng)

The Department and the national prescribing centre will publish a report on GP prescribing support in September. The document will give many examples of good practice where pharmacists have assessed prescribing for patients in a number of areas, including nursing home settings.

Mr. Flynn

Is the Minister in a position to respond to my letters and the reports that I have sent him from Gloucester, Glasgow and Manchester, which reveal that up to one in five hospital admissions for elderly people is the result of the misuse and overuse of medicinal drugs; and that, of those patients in care homes who show symptoms of dementia, more than half have drug-induced dementia? Will he replicate the splendid review carried out by the department of psychiatry at the university of Manchester, which shows that reducing drug intakes for elderly people makes them more alive, relieves them from the confusion and misery in which they live, saves the health service a small fortune and makes available extra money to spend on care?

Mr. Boateng

I will reply in detail shortly to the points that my hon. Friend raised in correspondence, but I was glad to have the opportunity, on 26 June this year, to give a prize to that self-same department—the department of old-age psychiatry at the university of Manchester—as part of the pharmaceutical care awards. We have learnt from the experience of that Manchester project that where pharmacists go out and about in the community, particularly where they are concentrated around nursing homes, the number of drugs prescribed per resident can be significantly reduced, stays in hospital can be reduced, and, significantly, the number of deaths is reduced. We want that good news and good practice replicated throughout the national health service.

Dr. Peter Brand (Isle of Wight)

Does the Minister agree that one reason for over-medication, especially of mentally ill and frail elderly people, is the NHS's withdrawal from respite care, day care and long-term care for elderly people? Does he recognise that the only way in which those people are being contained in the community is by doping them up? Does he agree that, to avoid that problem, we need more resources to support people in the community?

Mr. Boateng

We certainly need to ensure that resources, including any new resources, are applied in ways that complement health and social care being delivered together. By making a wider range of therapies and assistance available to old people we can reduce their dependence on drugs, particularly where we work in contact with the voluntary sector, which has introduced some important and innovative ways of proceeding. We are working on that now.

Announcements on mental health will be made in due course, and the elderly will benefit alongside the young from our new policies in that area.

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