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Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the number of GPs recognised as having a special interest in the treatment of drug addiction. [129141]

We are committed to expanding the numbers and the role of general practitioners with a special interest (GPwSIs) and have already met the NHS Plan commitment to have 1,000 such GPs. These GPs will help expand the range of services offered by primary care in settings more convenient for patients than hospital-based care. It is important, however, that the services offered by these GPs address local priorities and needs. The decisions on which specialties to develop locally are therefore for primary care trusts.We are supporting the GPwSIs' development with guidelines which we have commissioned from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) on a range of specialities. Drug misuse is among these and we are funding a RCGP training programme on this. In the first year, 440 GPs attended the training and there were over a 100 on the waiting list.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 1 September 2003 the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden), Official Report, column 3W, on adverse reactions to drugs (children), what the equivalent information is for (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000 and (d) 2000–01. [129724]

The following table provides data from hospital episode statistics of admissions to hospital of children under 16 years due to adverse effects from drugs, medicines and biological substances in therapeutic use in national health service hospitals in England.

Number of admissions of children under 16 (ungrossed data)
These data include adverse effects from all medicines, whether prescribed or taken without prescription. It is important to note that these figures do not represent the number of patients as a person may have more than one admission episode of hospital care within the year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 9 June 2003, Official Report, column 694W, on unused drugs, if he will commission independent research to assess ways of reducing this wastage; and what assessment he has made of whether smaller packs of drugs could reduce wastage. [129807]

The Department is concerned about the wastage of unused medicines and has introduced a number of measures to address this.

These include the medicines management collaborative, which involves primary care trusts (PCTs), general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacies in schemes that demonstrate innovation and good practice in medicines management. Reducing the volume of unwanted medicines is one of the local objectives being pursued by some of the PCTs participating in the programme.

Repeat dispensing makes it possible for patients to get their repeat medicines for up to a year without having to contact their GP's surgery. At each repeat dispensing episode, the pharmacist checks that the medicines are still needed and being used appropriately by the patient. The first wave of pathfinder sites is now under way and I announced the second wave of 40 sites at the British Pharmaceutical Conference on 17 September 2003. We remain committed to repeat dispensing schemes nationwide until the end of 2004. Evidence from previous pilot studies has shown that repeat dispensing helps reduce waste.

Modernising hospital pharmacy services, where patients can now continue to use their medicines when admitted to hospital, together with dispensing for discharge, has also been shown to reduce waste.

Given all these initiatives we do not propose to commission further research.

Patients have different requirements according to their clinical condition. Pharmaceutical companies therefore have to decide what pack sizes will suit the majority of patients and provide pack sizes to meet these needs.