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9 Sept 2004 : Column 1359W—continued

Cotton Nappies

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to make a financial contribution towards the start-up costs of (a) the provision of free cotton nappies for in-house use and (b) an awareness campaign to promote use of cotton nappies in the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust; and if he will make a statement. [187480]

Ms Rosie Winterton: It is for individual units and trusts to decide on the practicalities of promoting the use of cotton nappies in their own maternity units. In line with our policy to devolve decision making to those at the front line of national health service provision I do not see a role in these decisions for a central Government Department. I understand that Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust does not provide any nappies at present unless it is an emergency situation.

Cystic Fibrosis

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will introduce testing of all newborn babies for cystic fibrosis. [186977]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Ministers have agreed to the implementation of a new national programme for newborn cystic fibrosis screening. About a fifth of babies born in England are currently offered screening for cystic fibrosis. At the request of the United Kingdom national screening committee, an implementation plan to support the national health service is being developed by the UK newborn screening programme centre, a collaboration between Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Education.

Device Evaluation Service

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are the long-term plans for the device evaluation service; and which agency will be responsible for its day to day management. [187119]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The device evaluation service is actively involved in both the Health Industries Task Force (HITF) and the review of the Department's arm's length bodies. A formal announcement about the service will be made together with HITF recommendations later this year.


Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the proven side effects are of long-term consumption of analogue human insulin. [187054]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Clinical trials submitted at the time of licensing have examined the safety and efficacy of the human insulin analogues (insulin glargine, insulin aspart and insulin lispro) in diabetic patients treated for up to 12 months. Generally, the side effects observed
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with the human insulin analogues were similar to those seen with existing human insulins, with the most commonly observed side effects being hypoglycaemia, visual disturbance and injection reactions.

The longer term safety of the use of human insulin analogues in routine clinical practice is closely monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Any possible new safety issue to emerge is evaluated and, if necessary, product information for prescribers and patients is updated.

Full guidance on prescribing and use of human insulin analogues, including possible side effects is provided in the summary of product characteristics (the product information for prescribers) and the patient information leaflet. Key prescribing information is also included in the British National Formulary, which is made available by the Department to doctors and pharmacists.

Free Health Tests (Pensioners)

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the cost of providing pensioners with a free annual (a) eye test, (b) dental check and (c) hearing test. [186455]

Ms Rosie Winterton: We restored entitlement to free sight tests for people aged 60 and over in 1999 and hearing tests have always been available free of charge for patients referred to a national health service audiology department. People on low incomes may be exempt from dental charges or may only have to pay a reduced charge. We estimate that patient income of some £23 million per year would be lost if dental examinations were made free to all people aged 60 and over.

Free Prescription Scheme

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the percentage of people who will claim under the free prescription NHS low income scheme; and if he will make a statement. [187490]

Ms Rosie Winterton: No such estimate has been made. In 2003–04, the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA) received 731,000 claims for help from people in England, Scotland and Wales. Claims can cover more than one person and successful claims may confer entitlement for more than one year. Based on recent trends, the PPA expects the number of claims in the current financial year to be lower than last year.

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans there are for arrangements to promote public awareness of the changes in free prescriptions from 6 April. [187542]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The leaflet, "Help with Health Costs HC11 Quick Guide", which has been placed in the Library, notes that the threshold for full help with health costs has been increased. In addition a poster, prepared in conjunction with Citizens Advice, is currently being printed and Department of Work and Pensions staff have been told of the change via a joint income support/jobseekers allowance bulletin.
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GP Surgeries

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for additional general practitioner surgeries in (a) the constituency of Bury St. Edmunds and (b) Suffolk. [187199]

Dr. Ladyman: We have no current plans for additional general practitioner surgeries in the constituency of Bury St. Edmunds or Suffolk and there are currently no applications in the fourth wave for national health service local investment finance trust schemes in either Bury St. Edmunds or Suffolk.

It is now for primary care trusts, in partnership with strategic health authorities 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, based on the specialised knowledge they have of the local community.

Hepatitis B

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation sub-group on hepatitis B is next planning to meet; and when it plans to make a decision on hepatitis B immunisation policy; [187169]

(2) when the Government plan to implement the World Health Organisation recommendation that all countries should adopt a hepatitis B universal mass vaccination programme. [187170]

Miss Melanie Johnson: A working group of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is currently reviewing the United Kingdom's hepatitis B immunisation programme. The group is planning to meet later this year and will report to JCVI early next year.

Home Births

Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of the effect on (a) numbers of beds available and (b) other resources of women having home births; [187556]

(2) what assessment he has made of the relative costs of an uncomplicated natural delivery at home and an uncomplicated natural delivery in hospital; and what assessment has been made in respect of individual hospitals. [187557]

Dr. Ladyman: The proportion of deliveries that takes place at home has been around 2 per cent. since 1995, having risen from less than 1 per cent. in the late 1980s. This is so small that it will have little effect on the availability of hospital maternity beds. The resource implications of women having home births will vary and are a matter for local national health service bodies.

We have not made any assessment of the costs of deliveries in respect of any individual hospital. The average overall cost of a hospital and home birth normal delivery without complications or co-morbidities is shown in the table.
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Type of deliveryNumber(4)Average cost (£)
Non-elective in-patient (hospital births)314,683817
Day case (hospital births)1,071386
Community midwifery services
(home births)

(4) Data source: reference costs 2003 data (relating to financial year 2002–03), as published in appendix SRC1 of the "Payment by Results Core Tools 2004" document (Department of Health).

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