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19 Sept 2002 : Column 342W—continued


Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether primary care trusts will be required to audit the number of asthma deaths; and if he will make a statement. [71398]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 23 July 2002]: There are currently no plans to require primary care trusts to audit the number of asthma deaths.

The number of deaths from asthma is gradually declining. The Department's hospital episode statistics show in-hospital deaths, where the patient's main diagnosis was asthma, falling from 301 in 1998–99 to 213 in 2000–01.

The Office for National Statistics report that the international classification of disease, ICD9 493 (Asthma) recorded for England and Wales that in 1998 there were 1,366 deaths caused by asthma and by 2000 that had fallen to 1,272 deaths.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with the Medical Research Council to give further priority to research into asthma; and if he will make a statement. [72096]

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Jacqui Smith [holding answer 23 July 2002]: Asthma is a priority area for the Medical Research Council (MRC) and it supports a wide range of research projects looking at asthma ranging from basic research to applied clinical studies. The MRC spend in the area in 2000–01 was approximately £3 million. Under the terms of the Concordat, the Health Departments will be meeting with the MRC later this year. Respiratory disease will be a major item for discussion at this meeting.


Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether he plans to address the information and support needs of bereaved families affected by SUDEP and other epilepsy deaths following the evidence of the National Sentinel Audit of Epilepsy-Related Death; [72664]

Jacqui Smith: In May 2002, we welcomed the publication of the Government funded national sentinel audit of epilepsy-related death. The audit looked at investigations into epilepsy deaths, care provided prior to death and contact with bereaved families. We have given a commitment to consider in full the recommendations of the audit and to develop an action plan later this year to address the key issues. It will need to take account of and feed into a range of other initiatives including the national service framework for long term conditions (NSF), which will have a focus on neurological conditions such as epilepsy. We expect to meet with the epilepsy voluntary organisations shortly, and will consult with others as appropriate.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published a summary report of the audit. The publication draws the attention of local National Health Service

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clinicians and organisations to the need to establish or review policies and practices regarding the management of epilepsy and epilepsy related deaths.

The Department is also undertaking a range of other initiatives to improve services for the care and management of people with epilepsy. For example, we have:

Local health and social care organisations are responsible for planning and providing services for people with epilepsy, including the frequency of contact. The recently announced budget settlements for the NHS, representing an annual average increase of 7.5 per cent. above inflation over the five years 2003–04 to 2007–08, and personal social services (PSS), representing an annual average increase of 6.0 per cent. above inflation over the three years 2003–04 to 2005–06, will provide the investment needed to support the services which best meet patients' and users' needs.

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps the Government are taking to train and promote (a) neurologists and (b) nurses with specialism in epilepsy. [72660]

Jacqui Smith: In the 2002 budget the Government set a target of recruiting 35,000 nurses, 15,000 doctors and 35,000 scientists and therapists. They will become part of the continuing drive to recruit more health professionals for the National Health Service.

The Department fully supports the need for an increase in the number of neurologists. Recommendations by the medical workforce review team are for the numbers of consultants in neurology to grow by some 50 per cent. by 2010, from 326 in 2001 to 496 in 2010, and some of those consultants may choose to specialise in epilepsy.

There are already about 100 epilepsy specialist nursing posts which have been developed in both hospital and community settings. Primary care trusts will be able to decide about the level of future demand in this area. They are best placed to understand local health needs and commission services to meet them.

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Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of recent research into the measles virus and the spinal fluid of autistic children; if he will commission further research into this issue; and if he will make a statement. [72183]

Ms Blears: All scientists who feel they have some important research findings should publish their work in a peer-review journal and subject it to scrutiny by fellow scientists. The Government are not aware that this study has been published and therefore are unable to make any assessment or commission any further research.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been spent on research into autism since 1997; and what plans he has to increase money into research. [72532]

Jacqui Smith: The Medical Research Council (MRC) (which is a non-departmental public body which receives its grant-in-aid from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology) is the main public sector body which funds research into autism. The MRC spend on autism since 1997 has been:


I announced on 14 February the allocation of a further £2.5 million to the MRC for autism research. This will complement and add to the MRC's current support for research in this field. The MRC welcomes high quality applications for support in any scientific area which will further our understanding of autism, and especially those areas which were highlighted in their review.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money was spent in the NHS on the treatment of autism in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what plans he has to increase the level of services available. [72531]

Jacqui Smith: National Health Service expenditure on the treatment of autism is not separately identified. Our increased investment in health, education and personal social services in England will benefit people with autism. It is for health authorities, in partnership with primary care trusts and other local stakeholders, to determine how best to use their funds to meet national and local priorities for improving health, tackling health inequalities and modernising services.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assistance his Department has given to (a) the Scottish Society for Autism and (b) other organisations helping people with autism in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [72533]

Jacqui Smith: Under the Section 64 General Scheme of Grants to Voluntary Organisations, the Department issues funds to further its objectives in the health and social care fields in England. We have not funded the

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Scottish Society for Autism. Three national autistic society projects have received funding in the last 12 months:

Independence and Autism: Good Practice for Service Providers£49,000
Help—Parental Training£46,000
Asperger's Syndrome Project£40,000

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of recent research into the impact on autistic children of a second dose of MMR. [72184]

Ms Blears: We are not aware of any systematic study looking at whether a second dose of MMR has an impact on the rate of autism in children. However, in a recent paper by Farrington et al (2001) (full reference below) they looked at regression in children with autism and found no relationship to either the first or second dose of MMR. This paper was published in a peer review journal.

Full reference—Farrington CP, Miller E. and Taylor B. MMR. and autism: further evidence against a causal association. Vaccine 19 (2001) 3632–3635. A copy has been placed in the Library.

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