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H O U S E   OF   C O M M O N S

APPGITA - All Party Parliamentary Group for
Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Letter from The Rt Hon Gillian Merron MP,
Minister of State to Jim Dobbin MP,
March 3, 2010


April 7, 2010

Jim Dobbin MP
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your further letter of 18 March about tranquilliser addiction.

I apologise for the reference to 'drug misuse'. I do agree with you that this is inappropriate with respect to addiction to benzodiazepines for cases in which people became addicted while under their doctor's supervision. However, there is a large amount of misuse of benzodiazepines obtained from other sources such as the internet or through illicit drug trade.

I was very sorry to read of Mr Keith Andrews' ill-health. It is unfortunate that his condition has become so serious and that he has had to suffer so much. However, diagnosis is a clinical matter on which we cannot comment. If Mr Andrews has a concern about his diagnosis, he may wish to raise his concerns about his care with the relevant local NHS organisation. Details of how to complain are available on the NHS website at www.nhs.uk (enter 'NHS complaints' in the search bar and follow the links).

I was pleased to read of the support provided by the Oldham Alcohol and Drug Service which, as you know, I visited recently. I was impressed by the care they were offering to people who are trying to withdraw from benzodiazepines.

I was also sorry to read of Ms Steward's ill-health and I trust she is getting the support she needs from her GP and local hospital. Any condition as serious as indicated in her letter needs to be treated by heath professionals, regardless of the cause. I should explain that I suggested that she contact CITA for specialist advice on withdrawing from the benzodiazepine. It is appropriate that her local NHS organisations provide her with help and support for the health problems that you have listed.

Turning to funding for voluntary organisations, I should explain that the Secretary of State for Health, through the Section 64 General Scheme (Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968), has power to make grants to voluntary organisations in England whose activities support the Department of Health's policy priorities. Section 64 grants represent the greatest single source of financial support that the Department provides to the voluntary sector.

The grants are discretionary and terms and conditions agreed by Ministers and Her Majesty's Treasury apply. Competition for the available funds is always very strong, and priority is given to applications with innovative proposals of national significance that will complement statutory services and so help secure provision of high quality health and social care and promote the nation's health.

I would also suggest, if CITA has not already done so, that it approach the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Institute of Fundraising, who are ideally equipped to deal with enquiries from voluntary organisations seeking information, advice and training on fundraising matters.

The contact details are as follows:

National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Regents Wharf
8 All Saints Street
N1 9RL
Tel: 020 7713 6161
Email: ncvo@ncvo-vol.org.uk
Website: www.ncvo-vol.org.uk

Institute of Fundraising
Park Place
12 Lawn Lane
Tel: 020 7840 1000
Website: www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk

You raise concerns about the Department's engagement with people dependent on benzodiazepines. I should note that the review is not a public consultation. As you are aware, it is a review of published evidence on addiction to medicine, an overview of support services, a survey of GP prescribing and identification of gaps in information collection. The findings will inform Ministers' decisions about the development of policy in the area, with a view to developing policy options. It may be that there will be a formal public consultation at a later stage, underpinned by equality and human rights impact assessments and other safeguards to ensure that affected stakeholders have an opportunity to contribute. The Department has been speaking to patients' groups such as CITA and BAT to find out about services for people dependent on medicine.

I am happy to meet with APPGITA if my diary permits. Please ask them to arrange this with my diary secretary, who can be contacted at Rosie.Francis@dh.qsi.qov.uk or 020 7210 5116.

I know how concerned you are about those affected by their dependence on benzodiazepines and about the availability of services to support them I do hope that we can count on committed MPs like you to support the review and to continue to contribute your ideas for development of services.

I hope this reply is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Gillian Merron

Email Jim Dobbin MP
Email Mick Behan

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