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Departmental Transport

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much his Department has spent on ministerial transport in each of the last two years. [98694]

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Yvette Cooper: In accordance with the terms of the "Ministerial Code" and "Travel by Ministers", Ministers are required to make efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements. For Ministers in the Department, this is done through the Government Car Service.

For information on spend on the Government Car Service, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, on 25 November 1999, Official Report, columns 199-200W.

Meningitis Immunisation

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to extend immunisation against meningitis to young people on industrial placements prior to university entry. [98725]

Yvette Cooper: While on placements, the risk for these young people from meningococcal disease is the same as for the adult population. Next year, when they either return or go on to higher education, they may be eligible for immunisation. We are seeking advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the Government's independent expert advisory committee, on the use of meningococcal vaccine for young people who have not already been vaccinated at school and who will be first year students at the start of the 2000-01 academic year.

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children have been immunised with the meningitis vaccine since the current immunisation programme was introduced. [100605]

Yvette Cooper: Data on how many children have been given the new meningococcal Group C conjugate vaccine are not yet available.

Immunisation of young people aged 15, 16 and 17 years began from 1 November. Immunisation of babies when they are due for their routine vaccines at two, three and four months and around 13 months began from 29 November. Coverage data for meningococcal Group C conjugate vaccine will be collected through the routine quarterly COVER/Korner returns for children up to five years of age. The earliest these routinely collected data will become available will be November 2000, but we expect coverage data on some other catch-up age groups to be available earlier. The exact timescale will depend on vaccine supply and how the immunisation programme rolls out next year.

From the start of the programme up to and including Friday 26 November, a total of 1,734,560 doses of meningococcal Group C conjugate vaccine had been issued to general practitioners or National Health Service trust pharmacies throughout the United Kingdom.


Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which officials in his Department have overall responsibility for malnutrition and nutrition in primary and secondary care and for the interface between public health, hospital and community directorates. [99283]

Yvette Cooper: Nutrition is dealt with by both the Department and the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group (JFSSG). The JFSSG is responsible for providing the scientific basis and information for nutrition policy

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including defining a balanced diet and nutrient needs of the population and monitoring dietary intakes. The policies relating to prevention of malnutrition in the community--primary care, social care etc. and clinical care are within the remit of the Department.

Departmental officials are: Dr. Elizabeth Wilson who leads on clinical nutrition, that is the diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition, and Amy Edwards, who deals with the public health aspects of good nutrition and prevention of malnutrition in the community. The JFSSG official is Dr. Roger Skinner.

Pertussis Whole Cell Vaccine

Mr. Ian Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when his Department changed its advice given in paragraph 24.4.5 of the 1996 advice booklet, "Immunisation Against Infectious Diseases", that local reactions and pyrexias occur less often after acellular pertussis vaccine than after whole cell vaccine. [99446]

Yvette Cooper: The advice that local reactions and pyrexia occur less often after acellular pertussis vaccine than after whole cell vaccine was first included in the 1996 edition of the Department of Health memorandum "Immunisation Against Infectious Diseases". This information had recently become available from a departmental funded study that directly compared different acellular vaccines with the United Kingdom whole cell vaccine. The study was subsequently published and copies of the paper have been placed in the Library (Miller E. et al. Effect of schedule on reactogenicity and antibody persistence of acellular and whole cell pertussis vaccines: value of laboratory tests as predictors of clinical performance. Vaccine 1997; 15(1): 51-60.).

Post Offices

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the principal activities of his Department and its agencies which provide business for (a) Crown post offices and (b) other post offices; if he will assess whether the level of business generated in each case is likely to increase or decrease over the next five years; and which new areas of business for post offices are likely to be developed by his Department and its agencies over the same period. [99557]

Yvette Cooper: The Department has a number of activities providing business for Crown and local post offices.

Crown post offices issue leaflets called "Health Advice for Travellers" to customers on request, check customers self-completion of form CM1 contained in the leaflet and issue properly completed and authorised Form E111 to entitled persons. These documents entitle the holder to free or reduced cost emergency health care in other European Economic Area states.

Main post offices also display a poster and two leaflets informing the general public about entitlement to help with health costs. They distribute approximately one million leaflets per annum.

Crown and other post offices pay cash refunds of prescription charges when presented with a properly completed claim form by a patient or his/her representative.

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Crown and other post offices distribute milk tokens under the Welfare Food Scheme on behalf of the Department. Milk token issues through post offices are expected to decrease over the next five years.

Targets for electronic delivery of services (50 per cent. by 2005, 100 per cent. by 2008) represent a real opportunity for additional business for the Post Office network across all public services delivered by central government. Moreover, equivalent targets are now being set for local government, and there is an opportunity for the Post Office network to gain further business in delivery of services which are the responsibility of local government.

External Consultants

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what has been spent by his Department on external consultants and advisers since May 1997 funded from (i) his Department's programme provision and (ii) his Department's running costs. [99485]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 24 November 1999]: Total expenditure on external consultants and advisers, by the Department of Health and its Agencies 1 , since May 1997 to 31 September 1999, is as follows:

£ million
Department of Health(6)20.69

(6) Only running costs

(7) Of this total, £126,570 only is from programme spend

Colo-rectal Cancer

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what clinical trials have been carried out on the use of Irinotecan in colo-rectal cancer treatment; if the chemical use of this drug will be approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence; and if he will make a statement. [99642]

Yvette Cooper: Irinotecan is a promising new agent for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer which is being considered for possible referral to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Two large randomised trials recently reported in the Lancet have indicated that irinotecan can give a small but significant benefit when used as a second line treatment. The Medical Research Council, which receives its funding from the Department of Trade and Industry, has recently given the go ahead for a major randomised trial in advanced colorectal cancer which aims to clarify the advantages and disadvantages of irinotecan and oxaliplatin, another new agent. The trial will consider not only response and survival but also quality of life and cost-effectiveness. The first patients should be randomised into the trial before the end of the year.

Further information on projects and trials relating to irinocetan can be found on the National Research Register. This is available in the Library and most medical libraries on CD Rom and on the Internet:

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NICE published its first year work programme on 4 November and includes the development of wider guidelines on particular areas of treatment and appraisals of particular treatments and technologies.

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