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CJD Victims

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to improve care for victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; and if he will make a statement. [102889]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 16 December 1999]: I refer my hon. Friend to the statements made by the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), in the adjournment debate on the care of variant CJD (vCJD) patients which took place in Westminster Hall on 1 December 1999, Official Report, columns 109-116WH, in which he set out the measures in place or planned to improve the care provided for vCJD patients.

Environmental Radiation

Mr. Livsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what calculation of radiation dose from plutonium to tracheo-bronchial lymph nodes was used to inform the Fourth report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment. [102846]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 16 December 1999]: The Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) asked the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) to calculate radiation doses to the tracheo-bronchial lymph nodes of young people resident in the village of Seascale in Cumbria, who were aged 0 to 25 years. The doses calculated were for the period of time at which discharges of radioactive material from the Sellafield site were either at their highest (1975) or when the inhalation dose was at its highest (1955). However, even in the most pessimistic case in 1955, the total equivalent dose to the thoracic lymph nodes from natural background radiation is greater than that estimated from plutonium.

Radioactive Discharges

Mr. Livsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department's funded project, entitled Geographical variations in childhood cancer incidence generally and in relation to nuclear installations, has ascertained the level of childen's exposure to radioactive isotopes discharged from nuclear-licensed sites in England and Wales. [102845]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 16 December 1999]: This project is examining the variations in the incidence of childhood cancer in Great Britain for the period 1969 to 1993 and is based on 33,000 cases. The analyses will include geographical proximity to nuclear licensed sites. The independent advisory Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment will consider the results of this study when it is completed, together with current evidence of population radiation exposure.

Ionising Radiation

Mr. Livsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what areas of research the Radiological Protection Research Programme has identified as being necessary to the development of policy in the field of low-level ionising radiation. [102847]

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Yvette Cooper [holding answer 16 December 1999]: The Department's Radiological Protection Research Programme is currently funding research aimed at improving the assessment of the health risk from exposure to both ionising and non-ionising radiation. The programme covers a broad range of molecular, cellular, biological and epidemiological studies. When the individual studies are complete they will be submitted for publication.

Overseas Doctors (Greater London)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many doctors from overseas are working in National Health Service hospitals in the Greater London area. [103729]

Mr. Denham: At 30 September 1998, there were 2,760 doctors in the London Regional Office area who qualified outside the European economic area.

Health Visitors

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many children under five years of age are living in the area covered by Parkside Community Health Trust; [103360]

Mr. Denham: All children under five who are known to the health service in Brent, Harrow, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have a named health visitor. There is a system of general practitioner attached health visitors plus a named health visitor for refugees, homeless and travellers.

There are 29,493 children aged less than five years resident in the area covered by Parkside Health NHS Trust. Data from Brent and Harrow Health Authority indicate a total under five population of 18,561 and data from Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Health Authority indicate an under five population of 10,962.

A total of 88.48 whole time equivalent (WTE) health visitors are employed by Parkside Health NHS Trust of which 42.41 WTE are in Brent and 46.07 WTE are in Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. Currently there are 8.9 WTE vacancies, 2.9 WTE in Brent and 6 WTE in Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. Agency health visitor staff are covering these vacancies.


Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when his Department will reply to the letters from the hon. Member for Ashford of 25 September and 4 November; and if he will make a statement on the performance of the correspondence sections of his Department. [103858]

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Yvette Cooper: I replied to the hon. Member's letter on 5 January.

The Department's Ministerial Correspondence Unit works very hard to ensure that letters from hon. Members are turned around as quickly as possible. As recorded on 11 June 1999, Official Report, columns 403-06W, the Department's performance against its Service First target of 20 working days in replying to correspondence from hon. Members is 61 per cent. We are aware of the need for improvements in this area and work is currently underway to address this.

Alder Hey Hospital

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are the terms of reference for the independent inquiry into the removal of children's organs at Alder Hey hospital; and to what timescale it will operate. [103753]

Mr. Denham: The independent inquiry team's terms of reference are to inquire into the circumstances leading to the removal, retention and disposal of human tissue, including organs of the body, from children at the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital National Health Service Trust (and its predecessor NHS organisations) who have undergone post mortem examinations; to inquire into the extent to which the Human Tissue Act 1961 has been complied with; to examine professional practice and management action and systems, including what information and in what form that information was given to the children's parents or, where relevant, other family members in respect of the removal, retention and disposal of tissue; to examine the role of the NHS and other bodies or persons involved; to consider other issues relating to the above matters as necessary; to report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State by the end of March and make such recommendations as are appropriate.


Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what use he has made of Crown immunity to avoid liability for breach of commercial patents on medical products. [103301R]

Ms Stuart [holding answer 20 December 1999]: The Crown has no general immunity from proceedings in respect of infringement of a patent. However the Patents Act 1977, sections 55 to 59, allow the use of patented inventions for the services of the Crown without the consent of the patent owner. If these provisions are relied on, compensation for loss of profit has to be paid.

Law reports show the equivalent provisions in the Patents Act 1949 were used in 1961 by the then Minister of Health in respect of the anti-biotic tetracycline, but officials in my Department are not aware that these provisions have been relied on in recent years as regards medical products.

Illegal Drug Addiction

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures he has in place to address illegal drug addiction. [103243]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 21 December 1999]: Challenging targets for tackling drug misuse have been set by the United Kingdom Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator in

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his "First Annual Report and National Plan" published in April this year. These will help to achieve the objectives of the Government's 10-year drugs strategy "Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain". £70.5 million additional resources are being made available to health and local authorities over the next three years for drug treatment services. A further £18 million over three years will support drug prevention activity, particularly amongst young people.

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