§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the level of spending against their drugs budget by(a) PCTs and (b) health authorities this year. 
§ Ms Blears
[holding answer 5 November 2001]: Health authorities and primary care trusts are responsible for setting primary care drugs budgets; decisions on the level of funding will depend on local priorities.
Forecasts of prescribing expenditure are provided to health authorities and PCTs and groups and it is for them to monitor this against their prescribing budgets. Prescribing budgets notified to the Department do not include any contingency reserves held locally.
We do take account of prescribing trends and other influencing factors in primary care prescribing when considering the overall levels of allocations that are made to health authorities. The latest national forecast for 2001–02 prescribing expenditure represents a 9.2 per cent. growth on 2000–01 out-turn.
§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what account he will be taking of the level of spending against their drugs budgets by(a) PCTs and (b) health authorities this year when determining budgets for next year. 
§ Ms Blears
[holding answer 5 November 2001]: Health authorities and primary care trust drugs budgets are not determined centrally. However, the Department issues guidance each year to the national health service with 681W advice about factors that health authorities and primary care trusts should take into account in setting prescribing budgets. The latest guidance was issued in January 2001.
The latest guidance advises thatover the past five years the average growth in the drugs bill has been around 8 per cent.".and that when setting prescribing budgets,discussions should take into account local circumstances, including past trends and spending comparisons with similar areas.
Health authorities and PCTs and groups are also reminded to take account of additional costs from factors that influence prescribing costs, for example, national service frameworks, newly licenses drugs and National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommendations.
Health authorities and PCTs receive unified allocations to cover the costs of hospital and community health services, discretionary funding for general practice staff, premises and computers and primary care prescribing.
It is for health authorities in partnership with primary care groups/trusts and other local stakeholders to determine how best to use their funds.
We do take account of trends in primary care prescribing costs when considering the overall levels of allocations that are made to health authorities.