HC Deb 02 February 1999 vol 324 cc708-9
2. Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

What proposals he has to reduce the use of neuroleptic drugs in care homes. [67160]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)

We are aware of concerns that have been expressed about the possible over-use of neuroleptics, and several current initiatives will help to address them, including the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the national service framework for older people.

Mr. Flynn

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful reply and for the action that his Department has taken to deal with a distressing problem. The symptoms of senility displayed by many people in care homes are the result not of old age but of the misuse and over-use of neuroleptic drugs.

May I urge my hon. Friend to copy the initiative of the school of old-age psychiatry in Manchester, under which independent pharmacists and doctors were taken into homes? As a result, the use of such drugs was reduced, people's lives were lengthened, money was saved for the NHS and many elderly people were rescued from much unnecessary misery and confusion.

Mr. Hutton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that very legitimate concern about the use of neuroleptic drugs. I shall certainly look into the work that has been done in Manchester.

My hon. Friend may also like to know that we have commissioned the Centre for Policy on Aging to draw up new national standards for residential and nursing care homes. The use of medication in care homes will be covered by the new standards.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

The Minister referred to draft national standards. Will he confirm that there will be formal consultation on them.

Mr. Hutton


Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

Is it not ironic that, while residents of care homes may be over-medicated with neuroleptic drugs, there is massive rationing of psychoactive drugs for people with mental illnesses? What does that imbalance say about the Government's priorities and values? Will the Minister at least admit that that imbalance exists.

Mr. Hutton

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the use of neuroleptics is very serious, and we are determined to address the issue. He has conveniently forgotten that, as part of our strategy to modernise mental health, we are releasing significant new resources to help purchase new anti-psychotic drugs.

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