HC Deb 05 July 1971 vol 820 cc283-7W
Mr. Ogden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what is the number of children under the age of 12 who died or were caused serious illness by accidental poisoning for the years 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970, respectively;

(2) what are the types of poisons that have caused death or serious illness to children over the last five years.

Mr. Alison

The information is not available in the form requested.

The following are the figures relating to the deaths of children aged under 15 from differentforms of accidental poisoning:

a diagnosis of poisoning remain there 48 hours of longer.

The following figures show the estimated number of spells in hospital in England and Wales of children aged 0–14 with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of poisoning.

and young persons was brought to his attention; what action he has taken to combat and control it; what research he has initiated on this matter; and what representations or advice he has received from the poisons reference service;

(2) what representations he has received from organisations concerned with home safety or the safety of young persons and from coroners, on the problem of accidental poisoning of children and young persons;

(3) what advice he has offered to persons and organisations on the risks of child poisoning;

(4) what is the estimated number of lockable safety medicine cabinets in use in England and Wales, and the proportion of households having such safety cabinets;

(5) what consideration he is giving to the improvement of specifications for the design and safety of containers for pharmaceutical products or dispensing.

(6) what representations he has received from persons or manufacturers of child resistant containers, and about their provision; and what replies he has given;

(7) in view of the recent United States legislation on child resistant containers, details of which are in his possession, if he will introduce similar legislation.

(8) what were the proposals for field trials of safety containers in Birkenhead, sponsored by his Department; and why they were not carried out;

(9) for what reasons a safety container, details of which are in his possession, was not acceptable for use in or by his Department;

(10) if he will increase the container allowance by the amount necessary to enable safety containers to be used by pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry.

Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much it is estimated that the provision of child-resistant containers would add to the cost of the National Health Service.

Mr. Alison

The question of accidental poisoning of children had already been under review by my Department for some time when we took office. The Department has been in constant touch with the Poisons Reference Service and has consulted organisations, including in particular the Health Education Council, concerned with home safety and other bodies representative of the pharmaceutical profession and industry.

Education advice to the public is a matter for the Health Education Council; general matters of home safety and the safety of young persons are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Various inquiries now in hand sponsored by or known to my Department may throw some light on the proportion of households with lockable safety medicine cabinets, the circumstances in which children are accidentally poisoned and the incidence of serious illness as a result of accidental poisoning from different poisons and drugs. My Department has neither drawn up nor sponsored proposals for field trials of child resistant containers at Birkenhead or elsewhere, but we are considering whether such trials would be justified.

The standards of containers used by chemists are primarily a matter for the pharmaceutical profession and the British Standards Institute. Several manufacturers, and a few other interested persons, have been in touch with my Department about safety containers, and one manufacturer has asked the Department to increase the chemists' container allowance or to commend such containers to chemists. He has been informed that the Department has examined a number of safety containers but have concluded that the safeguards which they could be expected to afford in actual use would be unlikely to justify the additional expenditure, estimated at rather over £V million a year, which would be incurred in bringing them into general use in the National Health Service.

There are already adequate powers under the Medicines Act, 1968, to make any necessary regulations promoting safety in relation to medicinal products including requirements as to containers.

Mr. Ogden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many persons have been poisoned due to overdoses of travel sickness remedies or preventatives for the latest convenient period; and what advice he has offered to parents, teachers or guardians in charge or young persons on holiday on the dangers of such medicines.

Mr. Alison

Figures relating specifically to poisoning by travel sickness remedies and preventatives are not available. There has been no special need to issue advice about their administration to children in view of the dosage directions on the product packages and the cautionary labelling requirements of the Poisons Rules.