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Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that his advice to pharmacists with regard to prescribed items with a retail price of less than 2s. is in conflict with their professional duty neither to alter a doctor's prescription nor to discuss it with the customer; what discussions he has had with representatives of the profession on this matter; and how he proposes that the conflict should be resolved.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No". The remainder therefore does not arise.

Is the Minister aware that a very large number of pharmacists think that they are in conflict with their professional duties in following his advice and that they believe it is not within their power to alter a doctor's prescription or even to discuss the contents of them with patients? Is he satisfied that the present arrangements are ensuring that patients do not pay 2s. for drugs which they could get for half that price across the counter?

Nothing I have said requires or involves the alteration of prescriptions or their discussion with patients. As the arrangements are only a continuation of what has been in force for nine years, I do not think that they can involve any difficulty for the profession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the gap between himself and the pharmaceutical organisation has now become extremely narrow? Will he do his utmost to see whether it can be bridged in the very near future as a matter of urgency?

Yes. My officials and I myself have been in touch with representatives of the profession throughout. I have found these contacts valuable and I hope that they have.

Is the Minister aware that his answers reveal an admission on his part that there is some difficulty in this matter, otherwise there would not be the gap referred to by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead)? Does not the Minister appreciate that in a number of cases people are required to pay 2s. under the National Health Scheme for articles which do not cost as much?

No. This is simply a question of continuing arrangements with the 2s. charge which have hitherto been in force on 1s. charges.