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Volume 116: debated on Thursday 14 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to complete arrangements enabling disposable syringes and needles to be made available for diabetics on prescription free of charge.

I am glad to be able to announce that, following discussions with manufacturers, we expect to be able by September both to secure sufficient supplies of disposable equipment and to make appropriate arrangements for the safe disposal of the needles, in a quantity which may be of the order of 100 million a year.Accordingly, disposable single-use syringes and needles will be available for diabetics on general practitioner prescription from 1 September, throughout the United Kingdom. Since diabetics are exempt from prescription charges, they will be free for adults as well as for children.We have been particularly concerned to ensure effective arrangements for safe disposal of the equipment after use. In this respect a number of details remain to be resolved; but we have established that sufficient supplies of a needle-clipping device can be made available from mid August. At the same time as disposable syringes and needles become available on prescription, therefore, such a device will also be made available on prescription.The new arrangements will be a significant improvement in service for up to 200,000 diabetics who require regular injections of insulin to maintain the stability of their condition. The greater comfort and convenience of disposables will be particularly helpful for the many children concerned. The estimated cost may well approach £10 million in a full year.