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Nurses (Working Holiday Visas)

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when officials from his Department last met Home Office officials to discuss working holiday visas for nurses. [46502]

Mr. Milburn: Officials from the Department periodically meet officials from the Home Office and other Government departments to discuss a range of issues concerning the employment of overseas nurses. The last meeting which involved Home Office officials was held on 31 October 1995. In addition, Departmental officials have regular contact with officials from the Overseas Labour Service who are responsible for advising the Home Office on the acceptability of work permit applications from employers to fill shortage posts with overseas nationals. The last meeting was held on 4 February 1998.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the potential contribution of overseas nurses working in the United Kingdom on working holiday visas to addressing shortages in nursing provision. [46505]

Mr. Milburn: It is not the purpose of the working holidaymaker scheme to address skill shortages in the United Kingdom. A mechanism already exists, through the work permit scheme, for non-European Economic Area nationals to be employed in cases of skills shortages. Information on the numbers of overseas nurses registering with the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting is published in the statistical analysis of the UKCC's professional register 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997, copies of which are available in the Library.


Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the standards relating to the permissible levels of testosterone in (a) edible and (b) medicinal products in the UK; and what procedures apply in circumstances where products are banned. [46802]

Ms Jowell: The use of hormones as growth promoters in animal production has been banned in the European Union since 1988. Any confirmed residue of testosterone in food resulting from the use of a growth promoter is illegal.

There are no standards relating to permissible levels of testosterone in medicinal products for human use in the United Kingdom. Currently, there are 14 licensed human medicinal products (capsules, injections, implants and transdermal patches) which contain testosterone, one of several testosterone esters or methyltestosterone as the active ingredient at amounts of 20-250 milligrams. Recommended doses are based on information obtained from clinical trials. The products are indicated mainly for treatment of conditions in males where testosterone supplementation is required, and are obtainable only on prescription.

In cases where there are concerns relating to safety, quality or efficacy of any licensed medicinal product, the marketing authorisation (MA) may be withdrawn voluntarily by the MA holder. Alternatively, the licensing

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authority may take steps to revoke or suspend the MA. Procedural provisions relating to the grant, renewal, variation, revocation or suspension of UK MAs are contained in the Medicines for Human Use (Marketing Authorisations etc.) Regulations 1994.

The sale, supply and importation of medicinal products, and of animal feeding stuffs incorporating such medicinal products, which are the subject of a prohibition order under Section 62 of the Medicines Act 1968 are illegal, and a criminal offence by virtue of Section 67(3) of this Act. The maximum penalty is 2 years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine on indictment to the Crown Court.

Food Safety (Cheese)

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received about the use by his officials of powers granted under the Food Safety Act 1990 to ban the sale of cheese without court proceedings; and if he will make a statement. [47070]

Ms Jowell: The powers to which the right hon. Member refers are conferred on Ministers. On 20 May 1998, I signed an emergency control order under section 13 of the Food Safety Act 1990 prohibiting commercial operations in respect of cheese from a Somerset producer, because I was satisfied that such operations involved or may have involved imminent risk of injury to health. A 12 year old boy had become seriously ill after eating cheese contaminated with e-coli. The source was traced to the producer who was the subject of the order.

One business made representations and attended a meeting at the Department. I responded to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), who initiated a debate on the matter, and to the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) who made representations in the course of the debate, 17 June 1998, Official Report, columns 338-46. We have also received a letter from the Specialist Cheesemakers' Association, and as at 24 June 1998, three letters from hon. Members and one from a member of the public.

Waiting Times

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will collate and publish on a regular quarterly basis information showing (a) the number of people awaiting an out-patient consultation at an NHS hospital and (b) the number of out-patient consultations that have taken place in NHS hospitals in the previous quarter. [47133]

Mr. Milburn: No. A considerable amount of data on outpatient appointments are already collected and published in a quarterly statistical bulletin.

Drugs Misuse (London)

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the level of liaison which exists between the boroughs of London in co-ordinating an effective strategy to combat drugs misuse; and if he will make a statement. [47341]

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Ms Jowell: The Greater London Association of Directors of Social Services have, since 1993, co-ordinated a subgroup--the Greater London Drug and Alcohol Purchasers Group--for all directors of social services in London to discuss substance misuse issues.

The Greater London Drug and Alcohol Purchasers Group meets regularly with the Inner London Purchasers of Substance Misuse Services, which represents health authorities. This forum, known as the London Drug and Alcohol Purchasers Group, aims to ensure consistency in approaches to the treatment and prevention of drug misuse. The aim of the group is to standardise policies on pricing, treatment programmes and quality standards. It meets regularly with the London Drug Services Consortium, which represents the interests of voluntary and private sector providers of drug services in the London area.

In addition, the London Drug Policy Forum encourages joint working between these groups, the police, the probation and prison services and all those working in the provision of services for drug misusers. For example, it organises regular meetings for chairs of London drug action teams, and has recently produced a guide for local authorities on their role in tackling drugs misuse "Drugs in the Community--what local authorities can do".

All these groups are currently reviewing how they can work together more effectively to achieve the objectives of our new anti-drug strategy "Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain".

Elderly People (Discrimination)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research his Department has evaluated on discrimination against the elderly within the NHS; and if he will make a statement. [47588]

Mr. Boateng: Although allegations of age discrimination in the National Health Service have been made from time to time over a number of years, there is a lack of reliable evidence based research on the subject.

At the end of last year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State commissioned HAS 2000 to examine the care which acute NHS hospitals provide for older people, including claims about age discrimination. HAS 2000 are due to report at the end of this month. The Department will be evaluating the report, which will be published. Copies will be placed in the Library.


Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list those categories of people eligible to be provided with electric wheelchairs at public expense; and what plans he has to review this provision. [47590]

Mr. Boateng: The National Health Service provides powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs for severely disabled people, including children, who can benefit from them. Each health authority assesses local needs and determines local eligibility criteria within the broad national framework that the severely disabled person is unable to propel a manual wheelchair outdoors, is able to benefit from the chair through increased mobility leading to improved quality of life, and is able to handle the chair safely.

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NHS provision of electronically powered indoor/outdoor wheelchairs was introduced in 1996, at the same time as a voucher scheme to enable wheelchair users to contribute towards a more expensive wheelchair of their choice. The NHS Executive will shortly begin an evaluation of the operation of both these initiatives and it aims to complete the study by the end of the 1998-99 financial year.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the volume of correspondence sent to and received from hon. Members by the Secretary of State for Health in the periods (a) 1 January to 26 March 1994 and (b) 1 January to 26 March 1998. [47689]

Ms Jowell: The information is not available in the form requested. The total volume of correspondence replied to by Ministers from this Department for the period 1 January 1994 to 31 March 1994 was 2,505. The total volume of correspondence replied to by Ministers for the period 1 January 1998 to 26 March 1998 was 3,585. From the records kept, it is not possible to distinguish between those replies addressed to hon. Members and those addressed to other individuals or organisations, although the majority of the replies would have been to hon. Members.

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