We have received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the following:
1. Full details of licenses to prescribe diamorphine for the treatment of addiction, issued by the Home Office in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available
2. Details of new licences issued and those withdrawn - with reasons for withdrawal
3. The number of prescriptions and the amount of diamorphine prescribed
4. A running total of active licences for each year during the period.
We released the following information on 19th March 2012:
Doctors, registered with the General Medical Council, can prescribe Controlled Drugs listed in Schedules 2-4 inclusive of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001) under their ‘professional competency’ afforded to them in Regulation 7(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 without the need for a Home Office licence.
However, an exception to this rule surrounds the prescription of cocaine, diamorphine and dipipanone for the treatment of addiction. These drugs can only be prescribed under a Home Office Licence issued pursuant to the Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) Regulations 1997.
Licences of this type are issued to individual doctors at named premises. Licence applications are made to the Senior Medical Officer in the Department of Health (or equivalent body in Wales or Scotland) to indicate whether they have any objection to the issue of the licence, on the basis of their clinical experience and competence. The application is then passed to the Home Office to decide whether to issue the licence. With effect from April 2011, licences were issued to individual doctors at specific premises for one or more of the three drugs listed above, depending on their practice requirements. Prior to this time a ‘general licence’ was issued by the Home Office in 2007 to enable doctors who had undertaken an approval process involving the Department of Health to prescribe cocaine, diamorphine and/or dipipanone without the issue of an individual paper licence. However, the approval process, as outlined above, still applied.
The Home Office holds records of 250 - 300 licences issued to individual doctors for the treatment of addiction; a significant proportion of these would enable the prescription of diamorphine. a doctor holding a licence should be in a position to provide, upon request of a legitimate and reasoned request, a copy of his or her licence.
Since April 2011, the Home Office has issued 11 licences under The Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) Regulations 1997 to doctors to prescribe diamorphine.
These licences are open-ended and we do not have a record of any being withdrawn during this time. A licence remains active until an individual moves premises or seeks to amend their licence at which time we would revoke the previously issued licence. It is possible that we, or the Department of Health (or equivalent body) may be notified of a change to an individual’s registration status with the General Medical Council (GMC). Should relevant information be received we may review a previously issued licence in consultation with relevant parties to determine whether a person should continue to hold a licence.
The Home Office does not collect or store any data regarding prescriptions. The Department for Health has responsibility for health matters, including prescriptions.
As outlined above, licences remain active until such time as they are withdrawn. Licences are open-ended and not issued with an expiry date.