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Huntingdon's Disease

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reason Huntingdon's disease was selected as a condition which could be the subject of inquiry by insurance companies in deciding whether or not to offer insurance cover; and if he will make a statement. [136553]

Yvette Cooper: The Genetics and Insurance committee was established in 1999 by the United Kingdom Government to develop a procedure for assessing the scientific and actuarial relevance of genetic tests currently being used in insurance risk assessment and to evaluate each test against the criteria agreed. The application from the Association of British Insurers for consideration of two genetic tests for Huntingdon's Disease in life insurance was the first application to be received by the Genetics and Insurance Committee. The Genetics and Insurance Committee concluded that the scientific and actuarial evidence was sufficient for the results of these two tests to continue to be taken into account in setting insurance premiums.

The Human Genetics Commission has been asked to look at the wider social and ethical issues involved in the use of genetic data in insurance. The GAIC decision does not pre-empt that wider consideration.

NHS Direct

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if individuals will be able to obtain information on (a) abortion, (b) family planning services and (c) access to local NHS services through NHS Direct and the new NHS walk-in centres; and if he will make a statement. [136948]

Yvette Cooper: NHS Direct aims to provide information, advice and referrals to appropriate services for most conditions, including abortion and family planning.

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NHS Direct and the walk-in centres play a central role in providing information and signposting people to appropriate services. They also have a valuable role to play in improving access to local sexual health services.

The information needs of the population is one of the issues that is being addressed in the sexual health and HIV/AIDS strategy due for launch in the spring.

Heart Disease

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the implementation of the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease (a) nationally and (b) in the West Midlands. [136579]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 6 November 2000]: The National Service Framework (NSF) for coronary heart disease sets 12 national standards for improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment and goals to secure fair access to high quality services over the 10 year period. This will include building capacity, increasing specialised workforce, improved prevention and faster access to services.

The National Health Service Plan of 27 July is providing significant new money for CHD services:



Additional investment announced this year includes £49 million new money for early CHD wins, £21 million to speed up ambulance response times, £15 million to support new rapid access chest pain clinics, £10 million for equipment to diagnose and treat CHD, and £3 million for the CHD Partnership programme.

Actions are under way to implement the NSF in the West Midlands in line with the milestones set nationally. Local delivery plans for implementation of the NSF have been received from the thirteen West Midlands health authorities.

Particular local initiatives include: 11 rapid access chest pain clinics across the region in the first roll out, including one at the Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry; New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, will be developed as the fourth cardiac surgical centre in the region; the Black Country CHD Collaborative are developing a network of cardiac care; Action Heart at Dudley and Shropshire health authority's Help to Quit are excellent initiatives in cardiac rehabilitation and smoking cessation respectively.

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Rochdale NHS Trust

Mr. Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he has taken to broaden the shortlist of candidates for the position of Chairman of Rochdale NHS Trust, beyond the proposal of the Regional NHS Executive Chair in July. [137004]

Mr. Denham: The regional chair considered the names of a number of candidates on the regional register as well as those of serving non-executives from the Rochdale area who were seen to have the necessary qualities for a chair appointment. The candidates subsequently invited for interview included the current chair, Mr. Hermann Jungmayr, but he declined to be interviewed. Two candidates were eventually interviewed, and both their names were recently recommended to Ministers for possible appointment to the post. A decision on the appointment is likely to be made shortly.

Treatment Withdrawal

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many representations he has received and from whom concerning the legality of the British Medical Association's guidelines for the withholding and withdrawal of treatment. [137041]

Yvette Cooper: The Department has received approximately 200 representations concerning the British Medical Association guidelines on Withholding and Withdrawing Life-prolonging Treatment. These include representations from a number of professional, lay and religious organisations, Members of Parliament, individuals and a petition to the Prime Minister from the organisation "Against Legalised Euthanasia--Research and Teaching". Of these representations approximately 25 per cent. raised the issue concerning the legality of the guidelines.

Screening (Pregnant Women)

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the health authorities that currently offer pregnant women screening for (a) Down's syndrome and (b) cystic fibrosis; and if he will make a statement. [137375]

Yvette Cooper: This information is not collected centrally. A Lancet paper surveying the provision and method of antenatal Down's syndrome screening (page 1264, Vol. 154, 9 October, 1999) is available in the Library.

The United Kingdom National Screening Committee will build on this work to inform its implementation plans for a universal antenatal Down's syndrome screening programme. At present the Committee does not recommend universal antenatal screening for cystic fibrosis.

NHS Vacancies

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many vacancies there are for doctors at NHS hospitals in the Greater London area. [137385]

Mr. Denham: The available information is given in the table. Results from the Department of Health vacancies survey March 2000 were published in September 2000.

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Department of Health vacancies survey, March 2000.
Vacancies in NHS trusts in London region; medical and dental consultants as at 31 March 2000

London region
3 month vacancies (whole time equivalents)120
3 month vacancy rate3.0 per cent.

Notes:

1. Three month vacancies are those posts that had been vacant for three months or more at the date of the survey.

2. The three month vacancy rate is calculated as three month vacancies (3 month vacancies + staff in post at 30 September 1999).

3. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10.

Sources:

Department of Health vacancies survey March 2000

Department of Health annual non-medical workforce census


Human Genetics

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the letter to the hon. Member for Linlithgow from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Employment, (Ref. 2000/0064758 PODB) when he expects to receive from the Human Genetics Commission their wider study on the uses of genetic information. [137327]

Yvette Cooper: The Human Genetics Commission is currently considering the storage, protection and use of genetic information in various contexts and what may need to be done to ensure that concerns over the potential abuse of such information are addressed.

The Commission aims to submit a report and recommendations to Ministers by late 2001. This will take account of the results of a period of extensive consultation which begins on 27 November 2000.


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