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Handicapped Persons (Bathing)

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 23 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to make available on National Health Service prescription soap on rope for people who have difficulty in showering or bathing due to severe physical handicap; if he will take steps to widen the knowledge of such a provision; and if he will make a statement.

I well appreciate my hon. Friend's concern to help the disabled people he has in mind and have drawn the attention of the Disabled Living Foundation which, as he is aware, disseminates information about aids for the disabled, to the possible value of this aid. As regards NHS prescription, under the National Health Service Act 1977 only drugs, medicines and certain listed appliances may be provided at Health Service expense. There is no power for other items, such as foods or toilet preparations, to be prescribed to patients being treated under the general medical services.However, in certain conditions a "food" or a "toilet preparation" may have the characteristics of a "drug" and an independent professional body, the Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances, exists to advise on the circumstances in which these items may be regarded as drugs and, therefore, become prescribable at Health Service expense.The advisory committee has recommended that certain skin cleansers may be regarded as drugs in the treatment of some skin disorders and this advice is published in part XII of the current edition of the drug tariff.