HL Deb 13 July 1987 vol 488 c829

2.42 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when disposable syringes and needles for diabetics will be available free of charge.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, disposable insulin syringes and needles will be available free for diabetics on prescription from 1st September this year.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, in thanking the Minister, I should like to ask whether he will make sure that this excellent news is officially made known to all sufferers at the earliest possible opportunity as this new procedure will considerably reduce their very trying daily routine.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I certainly agree with my noble friend about their very trying daily routine. A press notice was issued when my honourable friend the Minister for Health announced on 14th May that disposable syringes would be prescribable by general practitioners from 1st September. All GPs and retail chemists will be sent details of prescribing arrangements during August.

With regard to sufferers from this disease, I shall certainly address my mind to the point.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, is the noble Lord satisfied that an adequate supply to meet this demand will be available? I understand that it will be in the region of 100,000 needles a year.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, yes. I am advised that the necessary number of syringes will be available.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, while I warmly welcome the announcement made by the Minister, I should like to ask him whether he will confirm that the Government's estimate of the total cost of supplying syringes—which I understood to number about a quarter of a million rather than 100,000—is £10 million. Is he aware that the British Diabetic Association is of the view that it will not cost that amount? It is very anxious that blood glucose strips should also be made available without payment. Will the Minister consider that? That would be a double benefit for the diabetic population.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am advised that the cost of these disposable needles may well approach £10 million in a full year. However, we shall have to await the uptake to see whether in fact that will be the cost. We should like to make blood glucose testing strips prescribable in due course. But that is a subject, like many others, that will have to be considered with competing demands for National Health Service resources.