HC Deb 22 March 1976 vol 908 cc11-2W
Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she has any further announcement to make on the use of safety packaging for the dispensing of prescribed medicines dangerous to small children.

Dr. Owen

In my replies to Questions from my hon. and learned Friend on 23rd April and 7th August 1975 I said that representatives of the pharmaceutical profession and of dispensing doctors were being consulted about the implications for them of introducing a statutory requirement to use dark-tinted child resistant containers when dispensing for children preparations of aspirin and paracetamol which are not in unit packaging.

I am glad to say that the representatives of the two professions have now expressed willingness to introduce voluntary schemes, which will be wider than the statutory requirement I proposed and will allow more flexibility. Under the schemes all solid dose preparations consisting of, or containing, aspirin or paracetamol, and not simply those for children, will be dispensed in recloseable child-resistant containers unless, first, they are already in unit packaging; secondly, the patient is elderly or handicapped and will have difficulty in opening a child-resistant container; or, thirdly, the person specifically asks that a product shall not be dispensed in such a container. In the latter two limited cases, the patient will be advised to keep the medicines well out of the reach of children.

The professions' voluntary schemes will apply to both National Health Service and private prescriptions. They will operate from 1st April 1976.

My right hon. Friends the Health Ministers, while reserving the question of making a statutory requirement in the light of experience, welcome the introduction of the voluntary schemes and believe that the scope to exercise professional initiative to meet patients' individual circumstances will be in the public interest. The extra cost of containers for NHS prescriptions, limited for the present to preparations containing aspirin and paracetamol, has been taken into account in negotiations with their representatives. Guidance has been issued to health authorities on similar arrangements for outpatients.

Further developments in the field of safety packaging of other dispensed medicines will depend upon experience of the arrangements for aspirin and paracetamol and, in so far as extra costs may be involved, on the degree of priority which can be accorded to them within the resources available.—[Vol. 890, c. 325–8; Vol. 897,, c. 472–3.]