It is a long-standing policy that doctors should be encouraged to use the generic approved names of drugs when prescribing.
We are also now considering comments that we have received on the recommendations of the Greenfield report on generic substitution by pharmacists when dispensing.
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. May I encourage him to issue a circular to health authorities that will encourage them to proceed with generic prescribing as quickly as possible, bearing in mind the substantial savings that would accrue to the health districts in the provision of patient care, and bearing in mind also that there is no question of clinical freedom involved? Some doctors in some areas, including Peterborough, already employ generic prescribing procedures.
I accept entirely that generic prescribing is already used widely by doctors in general practice and is almost universal in the hospital service. We must decide whether to change the practice whereby a doctor prescribes a branded drug, and ask whether the pharmacist should be encouraged to dispense a generic substitute. We are considering that matter urgently and I hope to give the Government's conclusions shortly.
Will the Minister confirm that, if the Greenfield report is implemented, there will be no interference with the doctor's clinical freedom and right to prescribe what he likes? As I have wide support for my private Member's Bill on this subject from doctors and pharmacists, will he use his eloquence on the Leader of the House to find time for the Bill when I reintroduce it?
The Greenfield report did not come to firm conclusions, so we thought it wise to consult the medical profession, the health authorities and the pharmaceutical interests on the various arguments, including those put forward by the hon. Gentleman. We now have all the responses, which we are considering. I hope to announce our conclusions shortly.