Written Answers. - Free Syringes for Diabetics.


asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, arising from cutbacks in the health services, diabetics who are entitled to free disposable syringes are now required to use these syringes up to four times thus posing a health risk; and the steps he will take to ensure diabetics are supplied with the necessary number of syringes for proper use.

In order to eliminate any wasteful and unnecessary expenditure in this area of the long term illness scheme, the Eastern Health Board decided to quantify the maximum number of disposable syringes and needles to be dispensed free of charge to diabetics under the scheme. Accordingly, from 1 January 1987 the maximum numbers of disposable syringes and needles supplied free of charge, in normal circumstances, under the long term illness scheme are:

1. Disposable syringe with integrated needle format — 30 per patient per month and

2. Disposable syringe with detachable needle format — 16 syringes plus 56 needles per patient per month.

This decision was taken following full consultation by the board with diabetes specialists.

The consensus of medical opinion is that a disposable syringe and/or needle can be safely reused on a number of occasions. The reuse of disposable syringes is considered safe as long as usual basic precautions are taken, that is the needle is kept covered and the used syringe and needle are kept in a cool place, such as a refrigerator. Some experts suggest that syringes and needles could in fact be safely reused several times.

However, if a diabetic considers that there are exceptional circumstances, the Eastern Health Board will consider applications for extra supplies on their merits.