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ME and MS

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received regarding additional funding for research into the causes of, and cure for, (a) ME and (b) MS; and if he will make a statement. [121353]

Yvette Cooper: The information is as follows:

Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)

We have recently received representations in the form of Ministerial correspondence about provision for research into, and treatment of, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and the perceived lack of research into diagnosis and treatment for this condition.

The National Health Service research and development programme is currently supporting the following research projects on CFS/ME:

A systematic review to determine the clinical effectiveness of treatments and interventions for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME--University of York
Family Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Adolescents with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome--King's College School of Medicine, London
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after Acute Q Fever: A follow-up study of the 1989 outbreak cohort--Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham
A randomised controlled trial of cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome--GKT School Medical School, London. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) The Department has recently received a large amount of correspondence from the public asking that additional funding be made available for research into the causes of and cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). There has also been some Ministerial correspondence and a Parliamentary Question which asked about treatment and research into multiple sclerosis during 1999.

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The Medical Research Council supported about a dozen projects on multiple sclerosis and associated demyelinating diseases in 1998-99 representing a spend of approximately £640,000 in that year.

The Department funds research to support policy and the delivery of effective practice in the National Health Service. The Department is currently spending approximately £150,000 per year on projects related to MS.

In addition, we have awarded the MS Society £15,000 per year from 1997-98 until 1999-2000 under the Section 64 scheme of grants, for their emerging therapies project.


Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the locations of the defibrillators to be placed in public locations in (a) Shrewsbury and Atcham and (b) Shropshire. [121292]

Yvette Cooper: Our scheme to provide life-saving heart defibrillators in public places was launched in April 2000. 700 defibrillators will be placed in railway stations, shopping centres, airports and bus stations across the country over the next year. Additional large public areas are currently being identified as potential sites.

We do not yet have details of the exact locations of the defibrillators, nor of the implications for Shrewsbury and Atcham or Shropshire.

Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital's people management standards document issued to staff. [121291]

Mr. Denham: Ministers welcome and want to encourage examples of good practice in the National Health Service. The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital's people management standards document, which identifies how staff can expect to be treated by the trust, supports our key priority of improving the working lives of NHS staff.


Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans his Department has to undertake further research into air pollution and asthma. [120159]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 9 May 2000]: The prevention and treatment of asthma are high priority topics within the Department's research programmes. The Department's Policy Research Programme has been funding for some years a programme of research on the public health aspects of asthma, aimed at providing a clearer scientific understanding of the causes of asthma and hence how it might be prevented. One of the major strands of research within this programme relates to studies on the effects of outdoor air pollution on patients with asthma. This work is currently funded until the end of the year, but it has been agreed to extend this contract for a further period and consideration is now being given to continuing the programme for a further five years.

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The Department has also funded a number of research projects that consider the possible effects of both indoor and outdoor pollution on asthma and respiratory disease. Many of these projects are still in progress and will continue over the next few years.


Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance his Department has issued to NHS trust and social services departments on the care to be offered to those suffering from new variant CJD. [121137]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 10 May 2000]: Health Service Circular 1999/178 issued to National Health Service trusts, primary care groups, and others in August 1999, among other things drew attention to the resources available to health professionals when dealing with the care of patients suffering from all forms of CJD. The CJD Support Network, in collaboration with the Association of Directors of Social Services, has published good practice guidelines for social services professionals who care for variant CJD patients. In addition, we will shortly be publishing some new guidance intended for healthcare professionals. It will mention the importance of having a named 'key worker' in place after any diagnosis of CJD, whose role will be to co-ordinate all professional care. The National CJD Surveillance Unit, funded directly by the Department, also employs a care co-ordinator, to act as a source of advice and expertise to health care professionals.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the average cost of caring for a patient suffering from new variant CJD. [121139]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 10 May 2000]: The cost of caring for a patient suffering from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) varies considerably from case to case, but is generally considered to be in line with the cost of caring for a wide range of other terminally and chronically ill patients.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that general practitioners are aware of the presenting symptoms of new variant CJD. [121138]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 10 May 2000]: The initial symptoms of variant CJD can be similar to much more common illnesses, and it is therefore difficult to diagnose the disease in its early stages. General practitioners presented with neurological or psychiatric symptoms in a patient would, however, be expected to refer such patients as necessary in the normal way to appropriate specialists, including neurologists. The National CJD Surveillance Unit, funded directly by the Department, keeps in regular touch with neurologists about CJD issues and has circulated to them details of those symptoms which would suggest that a case should be referred to the Unit for further investigation. In addition, the Unit disseminates information about variant CJD through the medical literature.


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many cancer units have a medical oncologist; [121691]

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Yvette Cooper: The Calman/Hine report published in 1995 emphasised the importance of the integration of the work of cancer units with a cancer centre. Each cancer unit should have in place arrangements for non-surgical input (medical and clinical oncologists) into services. Local arrangements will depend on cancer site specialisation by the oncologist and the cancer unit, but sufficient time must be available in the cancer unit to guarantee a firm commitment to those local oncology services. Consequently individual clinicians may work in more than one trust.

Results from the medical workforce census for England show that at 30 September 1999 there were (a) 700 clinical oncologists employed by 80 National Health Service trusts and (b) 380 medical oncologists employed by 70 NHS trusts.

National Register for Clinical Trials

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if the National Register for Clinical Trials has been established. [121690]

Ms Stuart: Details of research projects undertaken in the National Health Service are currently made available on the National Research Register, funded by the Department. The NRR has over 50,000 records and is available on CD-ROM and on line. To improve the information on clinical trials, the Department and the NHS are currently working in collaboration with its research partners to develop a national register of all funded clinical trials.

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