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MINISTER FAILING TO PROVIDE
BENZO FACTS - CLAIM
May 30, 2008
by Janice Barker
A HEALTH minister is being called on to give her civil servants a grilling over the lack of help for victims of addiction to prescribed drugs.
Research by the All-Party Group on Tranquilliser Addiction has found that Dawn Primarolo asked more than 50 questions on the subject when she was a backbench MP.
A spokesman on health in the mid-1990s, before Labour was returned to government, she was made Minister for Public Health when Gordon Brown moved to No 10.
The research was carried out by Michael Behan who founded the Beat the Benzos campaign with Barry Haslam of Uppermill.
They have complained for years that their attempts to get information and help from ministers has been met with indifference or a lack of knowledge.
Mr Behan, who now works part-time for the all-party group at Westminster, where Mr Haslam is also a consultant, said: "The Minister knows what is needed, and has done for many years, yet she is now not able to introduce care policies, so we suspect her department has its own agenda."
The all-party group's chairman, Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin, said: "From 1989 she asked about 50 questions pressing for compensation, and she was pushing these issues to the core.
"Now she is a minister, it looks like the responses we are getting back are similar to the ones she was getting. Her department has not moved one iota.
"Ms Primarolo needs to say to her civil servants that they must get a grip on this problem.
"They need to start offering what is provided in Oldham, which has the only withdrawal service for addicts of tranquillisers.
"And if that means investing money in other primary care trusts, that is what they must do."
Haslam to be quizzed by Commons panel
BARRY HASLAM will be giving evidence about the problems of addiction to prescription drugs in the House of Commons next month.
He has been called to appear at an all-party parliamentary group inquiry.
The group, chaired by Bolton South-East MP Dr Brian Iddon, has already had 70 written submissions, including one from Mr Haslam.
The hearing, on Thursday, June 12, will be at Portcullis House. Also giving evidence is Michael Behan, who helped Mr Haslam found the Beat the Benzos campaign, and Prof Heather Ashton, of Newcastle University, who has written the UK's standard withdrawal manual for benzodiazepine drugs.
Mr Haslam, who withdrew from addiction to Ativan over a 10-year period, and was left disabled with nerve damage, said: "More than 40 of the submissions received by Dr Iddon were dedicated to the effects and consequences of benzodiazepine drug addiction."
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