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Live Animal Experiments

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 5 April 2000, Official Report, column 509W, on live animal experiments, if he will introduce a legal requirement that labels on medicines for use on humans and animals include a statement that the medicine has been tested on animals. [119231]

Yvette Cooper: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 5 April 2000, Official Report, column 509W, in which I explained that the labelling of medicinal products is governed by European law. Therefore the United Kingdom cannot unilaterally introduce additional national statutory requirements in this area and the Government have no plans to propose such an amendment to European law.

3 May 2000 : Column: 170W

Health Authority Reorganisation

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of health authority reorganisation proposals objected to by community health councils and referred to him since 1 May 1997 he has (a) approved and (b) rejected. [119472]

Ms Stuart: Of the 21 objections referred by community health councils to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State since 1 May 1997 14 per cent. were accepted, 57 per cent. were rejected, 14 per cent. resulted in amendments to health authorities' proposals, 5 per cent. were withdrawn following a change in circumstances and 10 per cent. are still awaiting a decision.

HIV

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are the identifiable causes of human immunodeficiency virus. [119703]

Yvette Cooper: There is international scientific consensus that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV infection is a communicable condition which is transmitted by a number of routes but predominantly by unprotected sexual intercourse. It is not possible to identify the origins of the human immunodeficiency virus itself. There are a number of possible hypotheses concerning its origin which are the subject of current scientific debate.

Flu Vaccine

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how may hospital beds were occupied by influenza victims in November and December 1999 and January and February 2000 by patients who had not been vaccinated against flu. [119667]

Yvette Cooper: Figures for hospital activity during the winter period will not be available until the autumn this year, but information on whether or not these patients have been immunised against influenza is not collected.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that (a) at-risk groups, (b) essential service workers and (c) all those over 65 have flu vaccine available for next winter. [119669]

Yvette Cooper: The Department is committed to improving influenza vaccine uptake in the recommended risk groups this year and an implementation group is currently considering the steps needed to deliver these improvements.

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to reduce the age at which flu vaccine is made available. [120097]

Yvette Cooper: The Department is committed to improving influenza vaccine uptake this year. Ministers are currently considering the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's advice on the age above which flu vaccine is recommended as national policy.

NHS Dentistry

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to publish his strategy on NHS dentistry. [119753]

3 May 2000 : Column: 171W

Mr. Hutton: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) on 2 May 2000, Official Report, column 46W.

Dispensing Doctors

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what choice is open to patients to have prescriptions dispensed by a dispensing doctor; [119725]

Ms Stuart: Patients may have their prescriptions dispensed by their general practitioner if they live in controlled localities (that is to say, rural areas), more than one mile from the nearest pharmacy and the practitioners have been granted permission by their health authority to dispense prescriptions. Other patients may also apply to the health authority for their doctor to dispense their prescriptions if the patients experience serious difficulty in obtaining their medicines from a pharmacy due to the distance involved or lack of transport. We have no plans to permit doctors to dispense to other patients.

Prostate Cancer

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what legal advice he has taken on the failure of some health trusts to ensure referral within three weeks for patients with possible prostate cancer. [119735]

Yvette Cooper: The White Paper "The new NHS--Modern, Dependable" set the standard that everyone with suspected cancer will be able to see a specialist within two weeks of their GP deciding that they need to be seen urgently and requesting an appointment. These arrangements were introduced for women with suspected breast cancer from April 1999 and are being put in place for all other cases of suspected cancer during 2000. The standard will be introduced for prostate cancer in December. We have published referral guidelines to assist GPs in determining those patients who need to be referred urgently within two weeks to see a specialist. The referral guidelines are not mandatory but represent guidance on best available evidence. Clinical judgment will, in addition to the guidelines, play an important part in reaching any clinical decision.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase funding for research into prostate cancer. [119729]

Yvette Cooper: The latest figure available for annual Government expenditure (Department of Health/National Health Service, Medical Research Council and other Government Departments--principally devolved health departments) on prostate cancer is £1.55 million. This figure underestimates the total Government research and development expenditure in this area, as detailed estimates of NHS support funding are not collected routinely.

3 May 2000 : Column: 172W

Since 1997 we have committed over £800,000 to new research projects on prostate cancer, through the Medical Research Council and through the Department. The Department has actively sought to support such work in prostate cancer, and has not rejected any high quality proposals for work in this area.

The Department recently announced £1 million additional new funding for urgent research studies into prostate cancer as a mark of its concern over this disease.

Following the seminar last year at No. 10 a "Cancer Research Funders' Forum" has been established to help improve the co-ordination of cancer research in the UK. It is being run by the MRC and includes DH representatives and the major cancer research charities. At the Department's request, the Forum considered the issue of prostate cancer at its first meeting on 10 January. They agreed to set up an expert group on prostate cancer, which will identify gaps in current research and suggest ways of filling them. The expert group met for the first time on 25 February, and expects to report within months.

We have recently appointed a National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, who will spearhead our concerted drive on cancer. He will work in partnership with doctors, nurses, general practitioners, other health professionals and the voluntary sector to improve prevention and modernise cancer services to help ensure equitable access to high quality cancer care. This will include a close interest in the development and progression of research.

MMR Vaccine

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department will release the underlying data used to compile the study his Department commissioned for publication in The Lancet into the effects of the MMR vaccine. [120029]

Yvette Cooper: The epidemiological study published in The Lancet in June 1999 was an independent study commissioned by the Medicines Control Agency. This study was designed to investigate a possible association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism and found no evidence for a causal association. A copy has been placed in the Library. The study was accepted for publication in The Lancet following a process of rigorous independent peer review in the normal manner. It is not usual for peer-reviewed data to be subject to reanalysis by third parties. The Department therefore does not propose to ask the independent investigators to release their data.

Dystonia

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money has been spent on researching dystonia in each of the last five years. [119834]

Yvette Cooper: The main Government agency for research into the causes of, and treatment for, disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded via grant-in-aid from the Office of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

3 May 2000 : Column: 173W

The MRC has spent the following amounts on research related to dystonia:

Year£
1994-951,435,000
1995-961,702,000
1996-971,784,000
1997-981,731,000
1998-991,769,000

In addition, the MRC funds related research into related movement disorders such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and Multiple Sclerosis.

The Department of Health provides support funding for research commissioned by Research Councils and charities which is undertaken in the National Health Service. It is not possible to calculate how much of this support funding is spent on projects related to Dystonia. The Department also funds research to support policy development in health and social care, and to support effective practice in the NHS.

Project details of work supported by the Department can be found on the National Research Register which is available in the Library and on the internet: www.doh.gov.uk/nrr


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