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Macular Degeneration

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The main government agency for research into the causes and treatment of disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC),

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which is funded through the Department of Trade and Industry. The MRC has supported research on macular degeneration since 1997 that would be of direct relevance. Estimated expenditure since then is as follows:


    1997-98 £300,000


    1998-99 £82,000


    1999-2000 £78,000


    2000-01 £140,000

The MRC always welcomes high quality applications for support into any aspect of human health and these are judged in open competition with other demands on funding. Awards are made according to their scientific quality and importance to human health.

The Department of Health has supported, through national and regional programmes, research on macular degeneration. Projects include an ongoing project due to complete in July 2002 on A clinical technique for measuring macular pigment optical density in patients with macular degeneration.

Care Leavers: Higher Education

The Earl of Listowel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of children in care, or formerly in care, currently enter higher education; and[HL2417]

    What proportion of children in care they expect to be entering higher education in 2010; and how they expect to realise this proportion.[HL2418]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There are at present no data on the numbers of care leavers who go on to higher education, though the Government are aware that very few do so. This remains a priority area for action and the Government have set a target for improving the life chances of young people who have been in public care: the level of employment, training or education in 2003–04 for young people aged 19 and who were looked after by local authorities in their 17th year on 1 April 2001 to be at least 75 per cent of the level among others of the same age in the area. There is no specific target for care leavers in higher education.

Joint Department for Education and Skills/Department of Health Guidance on the Education of Young People in Public Care, issued to local authorities in May 2000, is beginning to bring about improvements in attainment levels. The Government believe that the measures in the guidance, combined with the continuing support for care leavers under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, will encourage more care leavers to go on to higher education.

A new statistical collection which will provide this information for care leavers aged 19 has recently been introduced by the Department of Health, and the first year of data will cover the 12 months ending 31 March 2002. The data will identify care leavers in higher education. The department plans to publish this information in autumn 2002.

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Blood Products: Safety Initiatives

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people with haemophilia have now been infected with hepatitis C and HIV respectively by contaminated National Health Service blood products; and what is currently being done to assess and implement new technologies to deal with (a) existing and (b) emerging pathogens in blood components supplied by the National Blood Service.[HL2422]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We estimate that 1,240 people with haemophilia were infected with HIV and around 3,000 with hepatitis C before viral inactivation of blood products began in the mid-1980s.

New blood safety initiatives, including technologies to remove pathogens in blood, are considered by the National Blood Service's Blood and Tissue Safety Assurance Group and the Department of Health's Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissues for Transplantation. Initiatives planned for the next 12 months include the introduction of new methods for viral screening and reducing bacterial contamination of transfused blood and an operational assessment of a new technology to remove existing and emerging viruses and bacteria from platelets.

Independent Healthcare Providers to the NHS

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 3 December (WA 111), whether they will now publish the results of the survey carried out in October 2001 of the work undertaken by independent healthcare providers for National Health Service Trusts, health authorities and primary care trusts.[HL2429]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Validation and analysis of the survey returns from the National Health Service are being finalised and we expect to be able to share key findings shortly.

Headlice Treatment

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice is offered by the Department of Health as the means for treating infestation by headlice in children.[HL2499]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Department of Health has published an information leaflet, copies of which are widely available. The leaflet recognises two treatment options, involving either the use of anti-lice lotions or the combing method.

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Nursing Staff

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made any estimate of the number of man-days or hours worked within the National Health Service by directly employed and agency nursing staff respectively and of the cost by man-day or hour of each category.[HL2509]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Department of Health records how much the National Health Service spends on agency nurses but does not record how many agency nurses are employed or the amount that individual agency nurses are paid. The salaries of nurses working in the NHS are paid on a number of scales and are made up of an hourly rate and various allowances. The department has not made any assessment of days worked and cost per day of either category.

In the year 1999–2000 the NHS spent £361,656,683 on agency nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff. In the same period the NHS spent £7,330,271,609 on directly employed nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff.

At 30 September 1999, the whole time equivalent number of nurses working in the NHS was 338,582. Given that this figure is a snapshot and not an average across the whole year, it is not possible to derive a cost per day for nursing staff directly employed by the NHS.

Oral Anticoagulation Therapy: Testing Strips

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contracts the Department of Health has had with the British Cardiac Patients Association and the Children's Heart Federation about making available on prescription the strips used in home tests by patients requiring oral anticoagulation therapy on a long-term basis, in the same way that Type 2 diabetes patients are able to obtain their testing strips; and whether current policy is being reviewed.[HL2542]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The British Cardiac Patients Association and Children's Heart Federation have written to the Secretary of State requesting a meeting with Ministers to discuss the issue of making strips to allow self-testing of blood by patients requiring oral anti-coagulation therapy. A meeting will be arranged.

We are currently considering whether to list such strips in Part IX of the drug tariff, so enabling them to be prescribed by general practitioners on the National Health Service.

Stem Cell Research

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 12 November 2001 (WA 57),

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    whether the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has issued a licence authorising Geron Biomed to derive its own human embryonic stem cell lines in the United Kingdom; whether Geron Biomed has disclosed its source of human embryos and gametes for this research; and whether Her Majesty's Government have any plans to collect information on the use of stem cells, in particular their exploitation for commercial purposes.[HL2543]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No such licence has been issued. All research using embryos in this country would need to be approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the HFEA would require the applicant to disclose the proposed source of the embryos. An ad hoc Select Committee of the House of Lords is currently examining stem cell research and the Government will consider its recommendations when they are published.

Food Standards Agency Report and Accounts

Lord Clark of Windermere asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Food Standards Agency Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2001 will be published.[HL2716]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Food Standards Agency's Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2001 was laid before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Library of the House. A version in Welsh, as required by the Welsh Language Act, is in preparation and will be published shortly.


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