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14 Jun 2005 : Column 307W—continued

Antiviral Drugs

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the delivery of the stockpile of 14.6 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs, over and above the current stockpile of 100,000, for the purposes of combating avian influenza, will commence. [3445]

Caroline Flint: Monthly deliveries of antiviral drugs to create a national stockpile will commence in August 2005 and are due to be completed by December 2006.
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Driving (Medical Fitness)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions she has had with her colleagues at the Department of Transport on the criteria for medical fitness to drive. [2565]

Caroline Flint: There have been no discussions with colleagues in the Department of Transport regarding the criteria for medical fitness to drive.

Advice on the setting and application of standards and the impact of medical conditions on driving in general is given to the Secretary of State for Transport by six honorary medical advisory panels. These cover the major relevant conditions, that is vision, diabetes, cardiology, neurology, psychiatric conditions and alcohol and substance misuse. All nominations to the panels are approved by the Royal College of Physician.

Any change to the standards set down in legislation will of course be subject to public consultation. The Department is included as a consultee in any such exercise.

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the outcome of discussions held at the recent Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting of 2–3 June was, with specific reference to (a) the Foods Supplements Directive, (b) pandemic influenza and (c) health claims made on foods. [3518]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 13 June 2005]: I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement made on 13 June 2005, Official Report, columns 1–3WS.

Hemel Hempstead Hospital

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list key services set to transfer from Hemel Hempstead Hospital; and what the new location is in each case. [3990]

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Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 13 June 2005]: The information requested is not held centrally. Our policy of Shifting the Balance of Power" means that the configuration of local services is a matter for the local national health service, working in partnership with its local community. Ministers have no formal part in this process, unless this matter is referred by the overview and scrutiny committee, and it would therefore not be appropriate for me to provide a detailed response to the comments made.

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA) is currently in the process of drawing up its outline business case (OBC) for the reconfiguration of health services in both counties. The SHA's OBC will be submitted to the Department for consideration in January 2006.

Hepatitis C

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will (a) set a maximum wait and (b) publish standards for levels of diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis C; and if she will make a statement. [1462]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 6 June 2005]: The maximum waiting time for a first outpatient appointment following general practitioner (GP) referral has been reduced to 17 weeks and will continue to fall to a maximum of 13 weeks by the end of 2005. By 2008, the maximum wait from GP referral to start of treatment, including outpatient appointments and any diagnostic tests, will be 18 weeks.

The level of diagnosis of hepatitis C will depend upon the number of individuals at risk of infection who are tested. In many cases, particularly those who injected drugs in the past, this will depend upon their coming forward. The recent and on-going awareness campaign aims to increase knowledge of hepatitis C among the public and particularly those who may have been exposed to the virus. Those at risk can then make informed decisions about whether to seek testing. Infected individuals can be referred for further specialist advice and treatment where indicated. There are currently no plans to set standards for the levels of diagnosis of hepatitis C, but progress will be monitored from the total number of laboratory-confirmed reports of hepatitis C infection collected by the Health Protection Agency.

Hot Weather-Related Conditions

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) accident and emergency department attendances and (b) hospital admissions in England with a hot-weather related primary diagnosis, including sunburn, there have been in each year since 1997, broken down by age. [2154]

Caroline Flint: Diagnosis-specific data are not collected or held centrally on accident and emergency department attendances. However, it is collected by hospital admissions and the information available is shown in the table.
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Count of finished admissions, admitted via accident and emergency, primary diagnosis hot weather related illness including sunburn, split by age group 0–14, 15–64 and 65+, NHS hospitals in England 1997–98 to 2003–04

Finished admissionsAge bands
Total0–1415–6465 +

Hospital Episode Statistics, Department of Health.


Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the UK influenza pandemic contingency plan will be updated to reflect the review of phases of pandemic influenza undertaken by the World Health Organisation. [265]

Caroline Flint: The United Kingdom influenza pandemic contingency plan published on 1 March is currently being updated to take into account comments invited, and a revised version will be published within the next few months. The revised plan will reflect the review of the pandemic influenza alert phases undertaken by the World Health Organization.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what procedures are in place to monitor the development by NHS organisations of multi-agency contingency plans for an outbreak of pandemic influenza. [266]

Caroline Flint: Preparing for emergencies is part of the role of national health service trusts and includes arrangements for a multi-agency response. A designated influenza pandemic co-ordinator supported by an influenza planning committee in each primary care trust will have specific responsibility for the development, maintenance and testing of multi-agency contingency plans for a pandemic.

In addition, strategic health authorities (SHAs) will be responsible for monitoring the preparedness of NHS trusts in their area. SHAs are also involved in the regional resilience forums, which have an important role in co-ordinating planning between different agencies.

Leukaemia (High Voltage Lines)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Government have commissioned research into a possible correlation between children living within 200 metres of high voltage lines at birth and risk of leukaemia; how many homes in England are estimated to be within 200 metres of high voltage power lines; and whether the Government plans to make recommendations regarding the safety of living near high voltage power lines. [3428]

Caroline Flint: The Department commissioned the work by Dr. Draper and colleagues on childhood cancer and distance from power lines, recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ Vol. 330, 4 June 2005). The study found higher rates of childhood leukaemia among those born within 600 metres of a power line
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compared with those born further away. The rate was higher for those born within 200 metres than those between 200 and 600 metres. The authors have no satisfactory explanations for the results in terms of causation by magnetic fields. A response statement has been provided by the Health Protection Agency's (HPA) radiation protection division and is available on its website at:

The study concerned high voltage power lines forming the National Grid in England and Wales, that is all 400 kilovolts (kV) and 275kV lines and a small fraction of 132kV lines. The National Grid Transco website notes that 139,000 homes in England and Wales, less than 1 per cent. of homes, are within 200 metres of their lines.

A number of population studies in the past that have linked magnetic field exposure with a raised incidence of childhood leukaemia but with no corresponding explanation. This led to the International Agency for Cancer Research to classify extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields as a possible carcinogen". The World Health Organization and the HPA in this country have recommended additional research and, bearing in mind the scientific uncertainty, the need for further precautionary measures to be considered. Government officials have already started detailed discussions with industry, regulators, professional bodies and interest groups about how to respond and a stakeholder group has been set up with the intention of making practical and proportionate recommendations in the interests of society as a whole.

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