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NHS Prescriptions

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the current medications and appliances that are obtainable on an NHS prescription that are (a) cheaper to obtain by paying for them over the counter at a pharmacist than the current prescription fee and (b) that, although cheaper, can be obtained only on an NHS prescription.

Mr. Malone: The information is not available.

Patient Transfer to Leeds

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the circumstances relating to the transfer to Leeds by helicopter of a patient from south-east London.

Mr. Sackville: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State expects to receive an initial report on this matter from South Thames regional office in the near future. A report will be published as soon as possible thereafter and any issues arising will be further investigated.

Historic Hospital Buildings

Mrs. Maddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many historic hospital buildings built before 1900 have been demolished by hospital governing bodies since the creation of the NHS trusts.

Mr. Sackville: This information is not available centrally. Each individual national health service trust is responsible for management of the estate in which they operate, including compliance with town planning and legislative requirements concerning the demolition of buildings.

Ebola and Marburg Viruses

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has had from the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, in Oxford concerning the potential plague-like spread of Ebola and Marburg viruses; what contingency plans she has to deal

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with any outbreak of Ebola and Marburg disease; and whether she will consider contracts with Porton Down to research into vaccines and therapies to alleviate Ebola and Marburg disease.

Mr. Sackville: We have had no representations from the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology in Oxford about Ebola or Marburg viruses.

We are not aware of any evidence of respiratory spread of either Ebola or Marburg viruses between monkeys and humans or between humans. The current consensus of opinion is that these viruses are blood borne.

We do continue to take a cautious approach and recommend strict precautions for personnel dealing with definite or suspected cases of viral haemorrhagic fever to prevent any possibility of spread. The Department of Health funds high-security infectious disease units for the treatment of patients with viral haemorrhagic fever although no case has been seen in the United Kingdom for about 10 years. These viruses appear to have a limited capacity for spread within the human population and the need for a vaccine for use in the UK has not been established.

National Blood Authority

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the total cost, including paper, printing, packaging and posting, arising from the letter from the chairman of the National Blood Authority to blood donors regarding the proposed reorganisation of the National Blood Service.

Mr. Sackville: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) on 9 December 1994, column 400.

Medical Negligence

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to her answer of 6 March, Official Report, columns 41 42 (1) if she will publish what information she has about the cost of medical negligence claims by (a) specialities and (b) staff grade; (2) if she will publish a list of clinical negligence claims by trust.

Mr. Malone: This information is not available centrally.

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Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what consideration has been given by her Department to the Institute of Economic Affairs proposals regarding the adoption of children of single parents; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Bowis: None.

Health Care (Older People)

Mr. David Porter: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement about the standard of health care enjoyed by people aged over 60 years now, 10 years ago and 20 years ago.

Mr. Bowis [holding answer 13 March 1995]: The information is not available in precisely the form requested. Mortality rates in people over 60 years have fallen during the periods in question reflecting, among other factors, improvements in health care and advances in treatment. Life expectancy at age 60 has risen from 15.4 years in 1970 to 1972 to 17.8 years in 1990 to 1992 for men and from 20 to 22.1 years for women.

Staffing and activity levels in the national health service have improved substantially across major relevant indices. For example, the numbers of hip replacement operations have increased by 47 per cent. since 1978, the number of eye lens operations by 119 per cent. and the number of coronary artery bypass grafts by 276 per cent. The number of elderly patient treatments has increased by 137 per cent. for in-patients, to 558,000 finished consultant episodes, and by 91 per cent. for out-patients, to 459,000 episodes. The numbers of consultant geriatricians have increased by 66 per cent. About 42 per cent. of total NHS expenditure is attributable to services to older people, who make up about 16 per cent. of the population. These improvements reflect major advances in medical science, in surgical, clinical and nursing practice and in other health care skills. They demonstrate the Government's continued commitment to the NHS, including the care of older people.

We have also made considerable progress in the implementation of our community care changes and in improvements to primary care services, many of which are of particular benefit to older people. Services are becoming more responsive to the needs and wishes of patients through quality initiatives such as the patients charter.

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