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Vaccines (Bovine Material)

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information his Department has obtained concerning the use of bovine material in the manufacture of vaccines. [134324]

Yvette Cooper: European guidelines issued in 1999 made clear that the manufacturing process for medicinal products should not use bovine materials from countries in which there are known cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. The first guidance on this subject was issued by the Committee on Safety of Medicines in 1989. From 1989 onwards, the Medicines Control Agency

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sought and received assurances from drug companies that they were implementing this guidance and subsequent guidance produced at a European level on a phased basis.

On the advice of the MCA, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, informed the House on 4 May 2000 that the 1989 guidelines obliged all pharmaceutical companies to source bovine material from outside the United Kingdom. My noble Friend is now advised by the MCA that these 1989 guidelines did not have the full force of law and that they applied to injectable medicines and medicines applied to the eyes or open wounds. However, the 1999 guidelines do apply to bovine materials and pharmaceuticals generally. From March 2001, these guidelines, which at present are not legally binding, will have the full force of the law.

My noble Friend also informed the House on 4 May 2000 that vaccines that use bovine material in the manufacturing process manufactured since March 1989 had used bovine material from non-UK sources and that the MCA had established that the latest date that vaccines manufactured before the guidelines came into force could have been used was November 1993. On 28 March 2000, I informed Parliament on the advice of the MCA that from April 1989 no bovine materials sourced in the United Kingdom were introduced as an element of the manufacturing process for vaccines produced at that time. In particular I told the House on the advice of the MCA that all vaccines manufactured by Wellcome after 1989 used bovine material from New Zealand. I also informed the House on 19 October 1999 on the advice of the MCA that since 1993 all vaccines in use were manufactured without UK-sourced bovine material. I have now been advised that the advice from the MCA that formed the basis of these statements was incorrect. The MCA was provided with information by manufacturers.

The MCA advised Ministers last week that in the case of the Wellcome oral polio vaccine, the assurances given by the company have proved inaccurate. This oral polio vaccine was originally produced by Wellcome. Part of Wellcome's vaccine business was transferred over to Medeva in 1991. Part of the oral polio vaccine was manufactured in 1985 using growth medium containing fetal calf serum of UK bovine origin, and this element continued to be used in the production process after 1989.

This oral polio vaccine continued to be use up until 2000, in specific breach of the 1999 guidance. The Department of Health has therefore recalled this oral polio vaccine manufactured by Medeva (supplied by Medeva under the brand name Evans).

The MCA have carried out a risk assessment and people who have received this oral polio vaccine in the past can be advised that the breach is of guidance which has been formulated on a precautionary basis; under the European guidelines, fetal calf serum is in category IV (no detectable infectivity); the processes used in manufacturing are designed to remove all but a remote trace of unwanted proteins such as fetal calf serum. The MCA, taking all these points together, have advised that any risk associated with this Medeva oral polio vaccine is incalculably small.

I asked the CSM in March to produce a comprehensive assessment of BSE-related issues in vaccines. The Government are committed to publishing the assessment.

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In the light of the new information we are also reviewing the advice given to Ministers on this issue to ensure that all the information given to Parliament is correct.


Mr. Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to improve recruitment and retention of biomedical scientists; and if he will make a statement. [134001]

Ms Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are being taken to improve the morale of (a) biomedical scientists and (b) other staff who work in the NHS pathology services. [134006]

Mr. Denham: The national recruitment, retention and vacancy survey published September 2000 gave us the latest authoritative data on staff vacancies from 100 per cent. of National Health Service trusts. It shows that 2.6 per cent. of other scientific, technical and therapeutic posts have been vacant for 3 months or more (in England). We are ensuring that effective recruitment and retention policies are in place to make the best use of trained staff, including biomedical scientists and other pathology staff, and that training levels are sufficient to get a better match between supply and demand.

In October, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published the performance management framework for human resources for the whole of the NHS. The way employers treat their staff will in future be part of the core performance measures and linked to the financial resources they receive. Included in the framework is the improving working lives standard which summarises the commitment expected from employers to create well- managed, flexible working environments that support staff, promote their welfare and development, tackle violence and racism, and respect their need to manage a health and productive work/life balance.

In July 2000, a new careers recruitment leaflet was produced for scientists and technicians and the NHS careers information service was extended to include scientists and technicians (0845 6060655 or

For 1999-2000, to help improve recruitment and retention, newly qualified biomedical scientists received pay increases of 7.1 per cent; trainee biomedical scientists up to 26 per cent; newly qualified cytology screeners up to 11.4 per cent; and trainee cytology screeners up to 6.6 per cent. For 2000-01, all NHS pathology staff received increases of 3.25 per cent. or £300, whichever is the higher, and a formula for 2001-02 is agreed.

As for the future on pay, the NHS pay system is in need of modernisation. We are working in partnership with trades unions to negotiate a new pay system which will offer NHS staff a more attractive career structure and which will enhance recruitment and retention.

Mr. Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when medical laboratory scientific officers will be brought within the scope of the Pay Review Body. [134000]

Mr. Denham: Our proposals for modernising National Health Service pay which were published in February 1999 in "Agenda for Change", include bringing some

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groups of highly qualified staff within the scope of the Nursing Pay Review Body, without changing its fundamentally professional character.

Initial discussions with NHS trade unions on pay modernisation resulted in the "Joint Framework of Principles and Agreed Statement on the Way Forward", which was published on 8 October 1999. This sets out the following starting point for more detailed discussions with trade unions on the qualifying criteria for groups to come within the scope of the NPRB:

The widening of the membership of the review body is conditional upon an agreement being reached in the current talks about pay modernisation.

Consultants' Pay

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase basic pay for consultants in the first few years of practice to compensate for the prohibition on private work. [133812]

Ms Stuart: The proposals set out in the National Health Service Plan will be discussed as part of the negotiations on the new consultant contract.

NHS Appointments

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will set out the composition and terms of reference of the new independent commission for NHS appointments, stating the means by which members of the commission will be chosen. [133868]

Ms Stuart: The National Health Service Appointments Commission will be a special health authority, with members appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State following open competition in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. It is intended that the Commission will be operational by 1 April 2001. Its precise terms of reference are currently being determined.

Private Healthcare

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the extent to which the UK private healthcare sector will expand as a result of the NHS national plan. [133811]

Ms Stuart: We are unable to say what expansion there may or may not be in private health care. That is a matter for the private healthcare industry itself.

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The National Health Service Plan indicates a closer working relationship between the two sectors. In some instances the private and voluntary healthcare sector can supplement NHS services and it makes sense to ensure this is undertaken effectively. That is why the NHS Plan outlines a change in the way the NHS and the private sector will work together.

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