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15 Jan 2003 : Column 678W—continued


John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how his Department defines treatment for heroin misusers. [90557]

Ms Blears: The recently published models of care document, which has the status of a national service framework for substance misuse, defines treatment for heroin users as follows:

Drug treatment needs to be comprehensive and multifaceted. Local specialist substance misuse treatment systems need to include a range of interventions, including advice and information, harm reduction, structured programmes of psychological therapies in conjunction with substitute prescribing where appropriate and residential provision. There should be a range of interventions and a range of treatment philosophies.


Mr. Portillo : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice his Department (a) issues and (b) endorses

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on the likelihood of HIV being transmitted through oral sex; and if he will estimate the proportion of HIV cases contracted in the last 12 months that can be attributed to oral sex. [90930]

Ms Blears: A statement of risk on 'Oral sex and transmission of HIV', together with a question and answer briefing, was issued by the Department of Health in June 2001. This was distributed widely to health professionals and the voluntary sector and is available from the Department's website

For the general population, advice on the transmission of HIV via oral sex is available through a number of sources funded by the Department. These include sexual health leaflets, the Sexual Health and National AIDS Helpline and the website which supports the Department's new safer sex campaign. In addition, Terrence Higgins Trust are funded by the Department to produce health promotion materials for gay men. These include leaflets (specifically 'The Manual' and 'Man[sex]Man') with messages around oral sex. The advice is consistent with the statement of risk issued in 2001.

Oral sex is common in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships, but its frequency among men who have sex with men has highlighted its potential contribution to HIV transmission. Recent information collected by the Public Health Laboratory Service found that, in 2 per cent. of new HIV cases in men reported as infected through sex between men, they believed themselves to have been infected through oral sex. On following up these reports, more probable routes of infection than oral sex were found in some men. Hence the true proportion of new HIV cases that can be attributed to oral sex will be less than 2 per cent..

Homeless People

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received on the difficulties of homeless people in accessing health services, particularly during winter; and if he will make a statement. [81679]

Ms Blears : I have received no recent representations on this subject. However, the Government fully recognises the difficulties which people who are homeless face in accessing health services. The first point of contact with the national health service should usually be primary care and the Department has taken a range of actions to improve the accessibility of primary care services for homeless people and later this month will be reminding general practitioners that people do not need to have a permanent address to register with them.


Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff the HPA Steering Group has who are dedicated exclusively to setting up the new organisation. [90062]

Ms Blears: The implementation team co-ordinating the arrangements for the establishment of the Health Protection Agency has eight full-time staff. They are

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joined on particular issues by a number of part-time team members and others drawn from the current organisations and the Department of Health.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements have been made for liaison between the National Radiological Protection Board and the HPA whilst the latter remains constituted as a Special Health Authority. [90089]

Ms Blears: I wrote to the chairs of the bodies most affected by our proposals for creating a Health Protection Agency on 15 November 2002, setting out the decisions we had taken following consultation on the Agency. Copies of the letters are available in the Library. In doing so, I made clear that it is important that the Health Protection Agency and the National Radiological Protect Board should work closely and effectively together from April 2003 to help achieve improvements in services to users. In the first instance, and subject to the legislation establishing the Agency being put in place, it will be for the Agency and the Board to decide how to achieve this. We shall hold them to account for doing so.

IVF Treatment

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent meetings he has had with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to discuss revisions to their Code of Practice on IVF treatment. [90615]

Ms Blears: Departmental officials discuss revisions to the code of practice at regular meetings with the executive of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The most recent meetings were on 10 December 2002 and 9 January 2003. Ministers also meet regularly with the chair of the HFEA to discuss issues including the code of practice; the last meeting was on 30 October 2002. The HFEA members intend to consider the latest revision at their meeting on 16 January, when departmental officials will be present as observers. It is anticipated that a revised code of practice will be issued in February.

Lifestyle Survey

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will place in the Library a copy of the most recent annual national survey of lifestyle conducted by his Department; [84467]

Ms Blears: The Department commissions a number of annual surveys that include questions on lifestyle issues, such as the Health Survey for England.

The annual cost of the Health Survey for England is around #2.8 million. The cost of the other survey activity is around #0.7 million.

The Health Survey for England is a major vehicle for providing valuable annual data about the nation's health and the information is used to underpin strategies for promoting better health. It is unique in providing objective measures of health such as measurements of height, weight, blood pressure and analysis of blood

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samples, together with information from questionnaires. It also contains a wealth of socio-demographic data, which is valuable for monitoring inequalities in health. It has established itself as an important research tool.

Secondary analysis of health survey information on many topics has been published in national and international journals.

Copies of all the surveys commissioned by the Department are routinely placed in the Library. The next report of the Health Survey for England is due to be published on 20 January.

Mental Health Services

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what patient advocacy services are available to (a) disabled and (b) ethnic minority mental health patients. [86147]

Jacqui Smith: A number of nationally and locally based advocacy services are available to help disabled and ethnic minority mental health patients. A range of agencies, including the voluntary sector provides these services. The Department is also providing three year funding for the United Kingdom Advocacy Network (UKAN) to develop standards in independent advocacy whereby they are establishing programmes of regional training courses for advocates. UKAN also employs a worker to work specifically on advocacy issues affecting black and minority ethnic groups.

The majority of national health service trusts and primary care trusts now have a patient advice and liaison service to advise patients, their carers and families about how to access appropriate advocacy services.

Microbiology Laboratories

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many state-run microbiology laboratories have not applied for clinical pathology accreditation. [90136]

Ms Blears: We do not collect this information centrally.

Mobile Phone Masts

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the public health implications arising from the placing by mobile phone companies of masts in (a) chimney stacks, (b) drainpipes, (c) alarm boxes and (d) other adjuncts to domestic properties; if he will take steps to ensure the location of such masts is maintained on a register open to the public; and if he will make a statement. [90343]

Ms Blears: [holding answer 13 January 2003]: The public health implications of mobile phone base stations were assessed by the independent expert group on mobile phones (IEGMP). Their report, the Stewart Report, concluded that the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines.

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Measurements undertaken by the National Radiological Protection Board and the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) have confirmed that public exposures are very much lower than the international guidelines. These results are available to the public from these organisations' websites, at and Network operators have undertaken to ensure that all base stations will be designed and sited so that members of the public will not be exposed in excess of the recommended basic restriction.

The IEGMP noted that if people are unduly concerned about potential exposures then that in itself may affect their well-being. A number of recommendations of the group were, therefore, designed to provide more information to people about local base stations. One of these measures was to develop the 'Sitefinder'mobile phone base station database, which is a national database of mobile phone base stations and their emissions. The database is managed by the RA, an executive agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, on behalf of the Government. The database provides information on all operational, externally sited, cellular radio transmitters in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is updated every three months.

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