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5 Dec 2002 : Column 962W—continued

Frictional Discharge

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his definition is of frictional discharge; and what the level of frictional discharge was in the last 12 months. [84805]

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Jacqui Smith [holding answer 3 December 2002]: The system of financial incentives that the Community Care (Delayed Discharges, etc) Bill will put in place means that there is no longer a need for a national level of Xfrictional" delays. These will vary from locality to locality and the financial incentives will ensure that the level of delayed transfers of care is at a minimal level by 2006.

Furazolidone

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to label turkeys imported from Brazil that have been treated with nitrofuran antibiotic furazolidone drug. [85004]

Ms Blears [holding answer 3 December 2002]: Following the discovery of illegal residues of nitrofuran drugs in poultry by the United Kingdom and other member states, the European Union Commission has put in place measures to protect consumer safety. All imports of Brazilian poultry, including turkeys, are held by border inspection posts and released into the food supply only if these illegal residues are not detected. This action offers greater consumer protection than a labelling initiative.

Hepatitis C

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will initiate a large scale screening programme for hepatitis C. [85040]

Ms Blears [holding answer 4 December 2002]: Our consultation paper, XHepatitis C Strategy for England", which was published on 14 August 2002, proposes that individuals at increased risk of infection or with otherwise unexplained liver disease should be offered testing for hepatitis C.

We will be issuing guidance to the national health service on hepatitis C testing as part of implementation of the strategy.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of new infections of hepatitis C there will be in (a) 2003 and (b) 2004. [85041]

Ms Blears [holding answer 4 December 2002]: New cases of hepatitis C infection usually occur without causing symptoms. Therefore it is not possible to identify new infections or make reliable estimates of future trends.

The Public Health Laboratory Service receives reports of laboratory diagnoses of antibody to hepatitis C. These diagnoses are not able to distinguish between new and previous infections and most often identify individuals with chronic hepatitis C infection. As proposed in our consultation paper, XHepatitis C Strategy for England", it is expected that there will be an increase in the diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C infection over the next few years, as individuals who have carried the virus for some time are identified through wider testing of groups who have been at risk.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his assessment is of the proportion of moderate to severe sufferers of hepatitis C who receive the mandated treatment specified by NICE. [85044]

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Ms Blears [holding answer 4 December 2002]: The Department of Health does not hold information centrally about the number of patients receiving treatment for hepatitis C.

Herbal Medicines

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will review the suitability of the Medicines Control Agency as the regulatory body for herbal remedies. [84182]

Ms Blears: Many medicines contain plant ingredients or have been derived from plant sources. The Medicines Control Agency and its predecessor within the Department has regulated plant based medicines for many years. The MCA is internationally recognised for its regulatory expertise and we are satisfied that the Agency should continue to regulate herbal medicines. We also take the view that regulatory efficiency and effectiveness would be impaired if responsibility for the regulation of medicines were to be split between different regulatory bodies, depending on whether or not a medicine was plant based.

Medical Devices Agency

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to speed clinical implementation of recommendations by the Medical Devices Agency. [82923]

Ms Blears: The Medical Devices Agency (MDA) has instituted a system in acute trusts for monitoring the advice contained in device hazard notices and device alerts to ensure timely distribution and implementation.

The MDA is also working closely with the National Patient Safety Agency and colleagues in the Department to introduce a new system to record and monitor the implementation of all safety warnings and to see that these are embedded within each trust's risk management and controls assurance processes.

Medicines Control Agency

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the costs arising to manufacturers from (a) Medicines Control Agency fees, (b) the costs of document preparation, (c) the storage of batches for testing, (d) analysis cost and (e) annual licence fees for (i) a simple herbal product with one ingredient and (ii) a complex herbal product containing several ingredients, in connection with the submission of applications for registration under the provisions of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive. [84210]

Ms Blears: The proposed Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products is under negotiation and at this stage it is not yet possible to identify detailed costs. However, under the current proposals it should not be necessary for companies to demonstrate the efficacy of the product and where products comply with the proposed European positive list, it will not be necessary to provide evidence of safety or traditional use either. We would expect that to be reflected in the fee levels for a traditional use registration. Any proposed fee levels

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will need to be agreed by Ministers and will be the subject of public consultation before they are put before Parliament.

We welcome the stated intention of the herbal forum, a group which represents all the United Kingdom manufacturing trade associations operating in the herbal sector, to have constructive discussions with the Medicines Control Agency on a wide range of detailed practical issues relating to negotiations on the Directive and its implementation should the Directive be agreed. A key aim of these discussions will be to identify ways to contain regulatory impact, consistent with protecting public health.

Mental Health (Leeds)

Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the specialist mental health posts in Leeds, West; and indicate which are filled. [81493]

Jacqui Smith: The 'three-month vacancy' and staff in post figures as at March 2002 for the former Leeds Community and Mental Health Services National Health Service Trust can be found in the table.

Total Psychiatry Group
3-month vacancy rate (percentage)11.6
3-month vacancy rate (number)10
Staff in post (wte)40
Staff in post (head count)40
General Psychiatry
3-month vacancy rate (percentage)4.7
3-month vacancy rate (number)0
Staff in post (wte)20
Staff in post (head count)20

Notes:

1. 3-month vacancy information as at 31 March 2002.

2. 3-month vacancies are vacancies which NHS trusts are actively trying to fill, which had lasted for 3 months or more (wte).

3. 3-month vacancy rates are 3-month vacancies expressed as a percentage of 3-month vacancies plus staff in post.

4. 3-month vacancy rates are calculated using staff in post from the Vacancy Survey and the Consultant Census, March 2002.

5. Staff in post data is from the Non-Medical Workforce Census, September 2001 and the Mini Consultant Census, March 2002.

6. Staff in post data excludes staff employed by the health authorities.

7. Medical and dental figures exclude staff in training.

8. Vacancy and staff in post numbers are rounded to the nearest 10.

9. Percentages are rounded to one decimal place.

10. Strategic health authority figures are based on NHS trusts, and do not necessarily reflect the geographical provision of health care.

11. Figures may not match previously published data due to a different method of rounding used on the staff in post data.

Sources:

1. Vacancy numbers and rates: DoH Vacancies Survey March 2002 and Consultant Census Health.

2. Medical and dental staff in post: DoH Consultant Census March 2002.


Information is not available for the specialities of child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, old age psychiatry, psychiatry of learning disability and psychotherapy as the sum of staff in post and vacancies is less than 10.

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Norwalk Viruses

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of the number of outbreaks of Norwalk-like viruses in NHS hospitals; [84146]

Ms Blears: The public health laboratory service (PHLS) has a voluntary reporting system for outbreaks of gastroenteritis, including those caused by norovirus, previously known as Norwalk-like virus. These data are known to be incomplete but in 2001, 80 hospital outbreaks 1 were reported and to date in 2002 there have been 183 reports. We believe that this increase reflects both improved reporting and the fact that the usual decline in norovirus infections over the summer months did not occur this year. As part of a separate initiative, the PHLS has approached specialist laboratories and identified a further 275 outbreaks that had not been reported.

We do not have data on the costs to the NHS of outbreaks of gastroenteritis caused by norovirus.



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