HC Deb 30 June 1998 vol 315 c143
9. Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

What plans he has to ensure that capping drugs budgets in primary care groups does not give rise to rationing by GPs. [46609]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Alan Milburn)

No individual element of the unified budget will be artificially capped. Health authorities and their primary care groups will continue to develop a range of measures to encourage general practitioners to use cost-effective and rational prescribing. As now, no one will be denied the drugs that they need. That is a guarantee.

Dr. Tonge

I am a little disturbed that, on two occasions in the Chamber this afternoon—the first was the response to my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb)—the Minister has suggested that institutes of clinical excellence should set priorities. He is now asking GPs in health authorities to set priorities within their identified budgets. All that I can say is that we heard it in the House first, rather than from the newspapers. This health team is now actively considering setting priorities, or introducing rationing, into the health service.

Is the Minister happy with his total cave-in to the British Medical Association, in that primary health care trust boards will consist of seven GPs, one nurse, one social worker and one lay member? Does not that breach the national health service's standing orders on professional representation? How on earth does the Minister think that he will get seven GPs in the same room agreeing with one another at the same time?

Mr. Milburn

GPs have already been doing that in recent years, and they will continue to do it. The local medical committees conference voted overwhelmingly for it. We have now given GPs and nurses more power and leverage than they have ever had before in the national health service. I am surprised that the hon. Lady does not welcome that.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

The Minister will know that he replied to me in a written answer about the licensing and prescription of the drug Viagra. May I convey to him today the concerns of GPs in my constituency, who have asked me to draw to his attention the fact that if the new drug, for which no provision is currently made in the drugs budgets, is made available under NHS prescription, it should be available on clinical need only through hospitals, not through GP practices? GPs are very concerned about their drugs' budgets.

Mr. Milburn