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9 Dec 2002 : Column 156Wcontinued
Jacqui Smith: While the Department does not collect that information, the Institute of Hearing Research recently conducted a survey of ear, nose and throat conditions. This suggested that around 17 people in every 1,000 have moderate to severe hearing difficulty or no hearing at all in one ear, but no difficulty in the other ear.
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 28 November 2002]: The proportion of older people waiting to be discharged from hospital on any one day has reduced from around 14 per cent. in 1996 to just under 8.9 per cent. today. The Government are determined to tackle the problem of delayed discharges and that is why we have brought legislation forward to deal in line with it. This is in line with the commitment in the NHS Plan to end widespread delayed discharges by 2004. Furthermore, the priorities and planning framework 200306 envisages delayed transfers of care will reach minimal levels by 2006.
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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information he collates on a regional basis regarding delayed discharge and emergency readmissions; and if he will list the figures for Q1 200203. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 5 December 2002]: The information requested on current waiting times for duplex scans is not held centrally. However, I am advised by Kent and Medway Strategic Health Authority that no waiting list operates when such scans are considered to be clinically necessary. These are carried out as needed.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many products now on free sale will be required to be licensed when the European directives on nutritional supplements on herbal remedies come into effect; and whether grandfather rights will be given to products already on free sale; 
There is currently no requirement for the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) to be notified of unlicensed herbal remedies placed on the market under section 12(2) of the Medicines Act 1968 and therefore there is no information available on the number of products placed on the market under this provision and which may fall within the terms of the proposed Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products. We expect that some broad pointers as to the likely numbers of products for which registration might be sought will
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emerge from continuing discussions between the MCA and the herbal sector, particularly in the light of further refinements to the text during continuing negotiations.
There is no provision within the Directive for grandfather rights to be given as such. However, in the MCA's consultation on the proposed Directive earlier this year, the herbal sector was invited to submit examples of products which are currently legal but which may fall outside the terms of the proposed Directive. Analysis to date of the responses suggest that there will be few existing herbal medicine on the United Kingdom market which, while having 30 years use, are unable to meet the proposed requirement that at least 15 years use should have been within the European Union. This assessment also takes account of the proposed five year transitional period for products already on the market, during which time evidence of traditional use can continue to be accumulated.
A recent proposed amendment from the European Parliament, which we will support, would reduce the required minimum period of EU usage from 15 years to 10 years. This would further reduce any possibility that products currently on the UK market would fall outside the Directive solely by virtue of the required minimum period of EU usage.
Where non industrially produced unlicensed herbal remedies are supplied following one to one consultation in accordance with the terms of section 12(1) of the Medicines Act 1968 there is no requirement to demonstrate traditional usage of the remedy.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on, and how many were (a) for and (b) against, the proposed new EU directives on nutritional supplements and herbal remedies from (i) small and medium enterprises, (ii) large manufacturers, (iii) drug firms and (iv) the public. 
Ms Blears: Directive 2002/46/EC on Food Supplements came into force on 12 July 2002 and must be transposed into member states' national legislation by 31 July 2003. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently consulting on draft implementing Regulations.
We have also received a large number of representations about the proposed Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products. It is not possible to provide a breakdown of responses in the categories requested as many of those commenting have made specific comments rather than directly indicated support for, or opposition to, the proposed Directives.
To the best of our knowledge, we have not received any representations, either for or against the Directive, from any manufacturers not already involved in the manufacture of products in the natural health sector.
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The position of representatives of United Kingdom manufacturers of herbal remedies was set out in a letter from the Herbal Forum to my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (The Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) on 18 November. The membership of the Forum, which covers small, medium and large businesses operating in the sector, comprises the Health Food Manufacturers' Association, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, the British Herbal Medicine Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Natural Medicines Manufacturers' Association, the Ayurvedic Trade Association, the Trade Association of Producers and Suppliers of Ayurvedic Products from India, the Chinese Medicine Association of Suppliers, the European Herbal Practitioners Association, the Aromatherapy Trade Council, and the Small Growers and Producers Association.
The Forum indicates its view that the traditional medicines sector needs appropriate regulation in order to ensure that the public is properly protected against inferior quality products which the current system can allow on the market. The Forum also says that its members appreciate the need for the proposed Directive, while outlining a number of areas of specific concern that it wishes to be addressed through the continuing European negotiations or at national level. We welcome the stated intention of the Forum to continue to work constructively with the Government and the MCA in particular, to address the various issues identified.
We have received a wide range of representations from stakeholder interest groups in herbal sector in the form of letters and through points made in discussions with Ministers and with the MCA. The stakeholders cover many interests including, manufacturing, retailing, consumers, herbal practitioners, other complementary and alternative medicine groups, pharmacists, doctors, other health care professionals and academics. Some have been supportive of the Directive or have been supportive subject to the resolution of specific concerns. Others have raised specific points without indicating an overall view of the Directive. A minority has indicated strong opposition. Among representative groups wholly or broadly supportive of the Directive are the British Herbal Medicine Association, Consumers Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the European Herbal Practitioners Association. Representative groups expressing strongest opposition to the Directive include Consumers for Health Choice (CMC) and the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS).
In a number of meetings Ministers have held with a wide range of stakeholders directly involved in the sector the position taken by the majority of interest groups has been that the UK should support the Directive as being in the interests both of the sector and of consumers, while arguing for additional flexibility on a number of issues; and that the Directive should be
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interpreted and implemented in a way which minimised regulatory impact, consistent with the protection of public health. A minority of stakeholder groups has expressed strong opposition, citing fears in particular that the Directive would have an adverse effect on specialist health food retailers and consumer choice.
We have received around 1,300 letters, mainly from the public, opposing the Directive. Many of these express the fear that large numbers of herbal remedies would no longer be available as a result of the Directive. A significant proportion specifically indicate support for the position against the Directive taken by CHC or the NAHS. We have received a number of petitions expressing a similar point of view. A number of these representations from the public also express opposition to the Food Supplements Directive.
We have in addition received around 400 letters from the public opposing the possibility of traditional use registration applying to flower essences. This followed a statement by the MCA, in response to a request from a company, that it might be possible in principle for a company to secure a traditional use registration for a product. Nearly all those writing were concerned that the possibility of a company making a successful application implied a requirement that all flower essences should be registered under the Directive. This however is not the case.
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