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Food Supplements

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health at what level of potency caustic soda and similar chemicals will be permitted in food supplements under the draft Food Supplements (England) Regulations; and what assessment he has made of the safety of the inclusion of caustic soda and similar chemicals in food supplements. [96479]

Ms Blears: Neither the Food Supplements Directive nor the implementing Food Supplements (England) Regulations set levels at which the substances in the permitted lists may be used in the manufacture of food supplements.

The lists of permitted substances in the Food Supplements Directive were drawn directly from positive lists in existing European Union legislation, including that on infant formulae and weaning foods, and substances on the lists have already been assessed for safety and bioavailability by the EU Scientific Committee on Food.

As for other foods, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to ensure that food supplements comply with the food safety requirements of the Food Safety Act 1990. Calcium oxide, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and potassium hydroxide are permitted to be used in food at levels necessary for a technological function, such as regulation of acidity. They are used at low concentrations that do not affect the safety of the food.

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General Practitioners

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the three month general practitioner vacancy rate figures are, broken down by primary care trust in England. [96176]

Jacqui Smith: The three month general practitioner vacancy rate published in the Department's February 2002 vacancy survey was 2.7 per cent. for England. The vacancy rate is estimated from results of a sample of 1,000 questionnaires sent to GP practices.

In previous years there has been no way to identify which primary care trust (PCT) a vacancy was in; especially since the last survey took place prior to the formation of the existing PCTs.

In view of this and the relatively small size of the sample, it is not possible to produce reliable estimates of the vacancy rate at PCT level.

Health Protection Agency

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that preparations for establishing the Health Protection Agency do not add significantly to the workload of the agencies responsible for responding to acts of bio-terrorism. [95694]

Ms Blears: We intend that the Health Protection Agency (HPA) will be responsible for a number of functions currently performed by a number of different bodies. The amalgamation of these responsibilities into a single agency is designed to strengthen specialist support for health protection and health emergency planning.

We are working closely with the various agencies concerned to ensure that the transfer of responsibilities to the HPA goes smoothly.


Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he proposes to bring into force the Kava-Kava in Food (England) Regulations 2002. [96060]

Ms Blears: The Kava-Kava in Food (England) Regulations 2002 came into force on 13 January 2003.

Macular Degeneration

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if his Department has started making arrangements to fast-track verteporfin PDT treatment for patients with wet age-related macular degeneration; [95686]

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Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department will fund a clinical study into the photodynamic treatment of age-related macular degeneration, with particular reference to subfoveal choroidal neovascularisation cases with visudyne. [95834]

Mr. Lammy: The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is carrying out an appraisal of photodynamic therapy (PDT) as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration. It has not yet published any guidance to the National Health Service on this topic.

NICE prepared its final appraisal determination on PDT and circulated it to consultees on 16 January 2003 We understand this document has been appealed against. NICE will now consider any appeals before publishing its final guidance.

Medical Procedures

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many hospitals are capable of intraoperative cell salvage of blood supplies during surgery; [96031]

Ms Blears: This information is not collected. The Department published Health Service Circular 2002/009, "Better Blood Transfusion—Appropriate Use of Blood", on 4 July 2002, available on

This circular asks national health service trusts and primary care trusts to review and explore the use of effective alternatives to donor blood and the appropriate use of autologous blood transfusion; pre-donation, peri-operative and post operative cell salvage by April 2003. An audit to review the implementation of this guidance will be carried out later this year.

Medium-Secure Units

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients in (a) NHS medium-secure units and (b) medium-secure units in the independent sector are awaiting discharge or transfer; what proportion of these patients have no place identified to which they can be discharged or transferred; and how many have been waiting for more than three months. [95903]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 6 February 2003]: The latest available information, at 31 December 2001, indicates that the number of patients awaiting discharge or transfer from national health service medium- secure units was 93 and medium-secure units in the independent sector was 48. There is no current information on waiting times.


Tim Loughton : To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 23 January 2003, Official Report, column 477W, on Mexico, if he will make a statement on the usefulness of memorandums of understanding between the United Kingdom and foreign Governments. [96084]

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Mr. Milburn: Memoranda of Understanding are helpful in providing a basis for a working relationship between two Governments with the aim of furthering knowledge and co-operation on health issues and ultimately contributing to the improvement of the health of their populations.

Ministerial Travel

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many times since 2001 he has taken flights on departmental duties in the UK; how many of these were (a) charter flights, (b) first or club class and (c) by helicopter; and who accompanied him on each trip. [95389]

Mr. Lammy: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made two business class return flights and one single business class flight. He was accompanied by one private secretary and one special adviser on each occasion.

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has made four club class return flights. He was accompanied by one civil servant on each occasion.

The Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) has made five business class return and three single business class flights. He was accompanied by one civil servant on seven occasions and travelled alone for one other.

The Under-Secretary of State for public health, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Ms Blears) has made one first class return and one single charter flight. She was accompanied by one civil servant on each occasion.

All travel was undertaken fully in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Library.

MMR Vaccination

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what percentage of GPs reached the (a) 70 per cent., (b) 80 per cent. and (c) 90 per cent. target rate for the MMR vaccination last year; [96049]

Ms Blears: MMR vaccination is recommended for all children shortly after their first birthday, with a reinforcing dose before school entry.

In 2001–02, the latest annual return, total payment to general practitioners providing general medical services was £3.145 billion, of which the sums attributable to childhood immunisation targets, including the first dose of MMR, were:

The percentage of unrestricted principals receiving a target payment for childhood immunisation in the quarter ending 31 March 2001 was 96 per cent. made up of:

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There is no 80 per cent. target. All figures concern only those GPs providing general medical services. Personal medical service GPs have their pay and any targets determined through individual contracts with their primary care trust.

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