asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made on the arrangements for the proposed extension of family planning services in general practice; and what steps have been taken to avoid unnecessary expenditure on supplies.
Agreement has now been reached with the representatives of the doctors and of the pharmacists on the provision of a free family planning service by general practitioners. This service will be in addition to, and complement, that already available through family planning clinics. Regulations will shortly be made to provide for a start on 1st July.From that date women will be able to register with a doctor for family planning purposes. General practitioners will be able to prescribe contraceptive drugs and female appliances—but not the male sheath—and these NHS prescriptions will be exempt from the usual prescription charges.My right hon. Friend sent general pratitioners in August 1974 the "Handbook of Contraceptive Practice" prepared for the Central Health Services Council. The handbook is a guide to the provision of contraceptive services. It advises training in contraceptive counselling and continuing education in new methods, and emphasises the need when doctors propose to fit intra-uterine devices for practical training, proper premises and trained assistance. A letter which is being sent to all general practitioners by the Chief Medical Officer draws attention on behalf of the Department and the profession to the handbook and the advice on training.A proportion of the funds made available for postgraduate education for general practitioners has been used for training in family planning through courses provided by post-graduate deans, health authorities and the Family Planning Association, and this will continue. The prices of contraceptive drugs are subject to the voluntary price regulation scheme and manufacturers have agreed not to undertake any additional promotion of such drugs in connection with the new arrangements. We are grateful to the manufacturers for their co-operation in this. With the agreement of the profession's representatives general practitioners are being asked to take account of cost in their choice of drugs; and a chart showing comparative costs is being sent to them.