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28 Jun 2005 : Column 1517W—continued


John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance she has issued to drug actions teams on the use of (a) methadone and (b) buprenorphine. [6857]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 27 June 2005]: The Department and the National Treatment Agency, as part of their commitment to appropriate substitute prescribing, have produced a number of pieces of work in support of this objective. These are:

As part of our continuing commitment to develop the evidence base in this area as part of our objective to increase the effectiveness of treatment, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, as part of its 10th wave,
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has agreed to do an appraisal of methadone and buprenorphine in the treatment of drug addiction. This important work, which will be completed by the end of 2006, is likely to be influential in the development of appropriate and effective substitute prescribing in future years.

MMR (Students)

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what advice the Department has given to (a) general practitioners and (b) medical centres covering university campuses about the MMR vaccination for students; [3349]

(2) what steps are being taken to ensure that unprotected university students are able to receive the MMR vaccination; and if she will make a statement. [3365]

Caroline Flint: The Department continues to support locally organised catch-up campaigns through supplying the MMR vaccine free of charge, and providing supplies of a leaflet containing information on this issue.

The Department sent a Public Health Alert to general practitioners in May 2004, alerting them to the risk posed by cases of mumps occurring at an international student's sports event in Spain. The Department also wrote to immunisation co-ordinators on MMR and older children in January 2005.

The Department's advice remains that all children need two doses of MMR vaccine to be protected against measles, mumps and rubella.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cases of (a) mumps and (b) measles among students there were in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [3364]

Caroline Flint: Data showing the number of laboratory confirmed cases of measles and mumps for the age groups 15 to 19 years, 20 to 24 years, and total cases for the years 2000–04 are shown in the table.

There is no way of knowing exactly how many of these cases relate specifically to university students, but it is likely many will be students in further education institutions.

The increase in mumps cases is predominantly in a particular cohort of children (those born between 1983 and 1987) who would not have been routinely offered MMR. During the last five years the mumps outbreaks have moved from older secondary school students to university/college students (percentage of total cases for each age group show this). We know that many of the mumps cases reported in 2003 to 2005 have been from university and college outbreaks, or linked to these.
Laboratory confirmed cases of measles and mumps : 2000–04

15–19 years
20–24 years
all ages 15–19 years
20–24 years
all ages

Health Protection Agency website

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Mobile Phone Risks (Children)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment she has made of the possible risk posed by mobile phones to young children; and if she will make a statement; [5845]

(2) what measures are being taken to reduce the number of young children being exposed to mobile phones. [5846]

Caroline Flint: The comprehensive research reviews in this country undertaken for the Stewart report in 2000 and for the Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields" do not suggest there are adverse health effects from the use of mobile phone technologies. Most reviews, however, note there are gaps in our scientific knowledge and therefore recommend continued research and the adoption of a precautionary approach with respect to children in particular.

Our advice to parents of children and young people under 16 on the use of mobile phones is set out in the leaflet Mobile phones and Health", available on the Department's website at: It states:

The advice adds that:

In line with the Stewart report's precautionary approach, the mobile phone operators reviewed their marketing policies to ensure they do not actively market mobile phones to the under-16s.

A more recent report from the National Radiological Protection Board, now the Health Protection Agency's radiation protection division, issued in January 2005, entitled Mobile Phones and Health 2004", recommends that limiting the use of mobile phones by children remains an appropriate precautionary measure.


Ms Diana R. Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures the Government plans to take to combat the threat of MRSA in hospitals. [6230]

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Jane Kennedy: Tackling meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other healthcare associated infections is a top priority.

Our wide ranging programme to tackle these infections includes:

Needle Exchange Projects (Hepatitis C)

Mrs. Dean: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the effect of needle exchange projects on the prevention of hepatitis C infection in (a) the Burton constituency and (b) England. [4395]

Caroline Flint: Injecting drug use is a main route of transmission of hepatitis C. Needle exchange services, when provided with a range of other measures including the provision of information and advice about risk and accessible specialised drug treatment services, reduce the risk of transmission of hepatitis C and other blood borne virus infections, such as HIV infection. Needle exchange services are available in over 90 per cent. of local authorities in England. As part of the Department's Hepatitis C Action Plan for England", a national audit of needle exchange schemes is under way which will contribute to monitoring of provision and effectiveness.

In the Burton constituency area, action has been taken to reduce the risks of transmission of hepatitis C through the provision of needle exchange services and other harm reduction services. The Staffordshire drug action team is working with other local partners, including general practitioners and primary care trusts, to develop an intervention strategy for ensuring that this provision remains effective for addressing local needs.

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