HC Deb 20 March 1997 vol 292 c838W
Mr. Garnier

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for the addicts index. [21046]

Mr. Sackville

We propose to bring the addicts index to a close on 31 March. A statutory instrument will shortly be laid before Parliament to revoke the existing provisions which require doctors to notify the Chief Medical Officer at the Home Office of details of patients they believe to be addicted to certain narcotic drugs. This year's notification statistics, due to be published in July, will therefore be the last in the series.

Reliance for information on the nature of drug misuse will henceforward rest mainly on the Department of Health's regional drug misuse databases and the Scottish drug misuse database. The DMDs are a superior source of information in a number of significant respects:

  • they cover all drugs misused, not just the narcotics;
  • they cover non-medical as well as doctor sources;
  • the anonymity is attractive both to misusers and those treating them;
  • the voluntary nature of the system promotes compliance.

The value of the statistical product of the DMDs is already proven and the system, which has been operating since 1992, is well established. The closure of the addicts index will assist in concentrating efforts on further strategic development of the DMDs; work is already being taken forward in this area. Doctors and others concerned in the treatment and support of drug addicts will also continue to be encouraged to report contacts to the DMDs.

It is recognised that doctors need to manage addict patients with particular care; this includes guarding against attempts to obtain dual prescriptions. There are guidelines on clinical management of drug misusers, published by the Department of Health, to assist doctors treating such patients. The guidance emphasises the need for a proper clinical assessment of drug dependence, including special measures such as urine analysis.

The Department of Health have in hand a revision of the guidelines which will further assist in the management of these patients.

Problems associated with diversion on to the illicit market will continue to be dealt with by the drugs inspectorate which will closely monitor prescribing of controlled drugs to drug addicts.

Doctors who use the index will shortly be individually informed of the closure. The relevant professional and interested bodies will also be notified.