Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum by Jane Gill, Nurse Consultant, Dr Rosemary McCann, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Ruth Philp, Nurse Consultant and Alan Silverwood, Nurse Specialist

4.   Should the United Kingdom make greater use of vaccines to combat infection and what problems exist for developing new, more effective or safer vaccines?

  Universal Hepatitis B immunisation should be incorporated into the childhood immunisation programme with a catch up programme for adolescents. Whilst we acknowledge the financial burden of this proposal we consider that there will be considerable savings in terms of the management of cases and the follow up of their contacts. The selective programme is inconsistent across the country, costly and time consuming to implement and no financial incentives exist nationally to promote and implement it within Primary Care.

5.   What infectious diseases pose the bigger threats in the foreseeable future?

  Blood borne viruses and sexually transmitted diseases pose the biggest threats now and in the foreseeable future. The financial implications of implementing the Hepatitis C strategy must be addressed especially with regard to the treatment and follow up of cases, which will necessitate an increased demand for specialist workers in addition to the costs associated with therapy.

6.   What policy interventions would have the greatest impact on preventing outbreaks of and damage caused by infectious disease in the United Kingdom?

  There is an urgent need to increase investment in sexual health services both in relation to treatment and prevention. Health promotion must retain a high profile within the school curriculum. Current epidemiological data suggests that the "safer sex" messages of the 1980s have lost their impact and need reinforcing.

  Needle exchange schemes need to be expanded and consideration should be given to providing "paraphanalia" in addition to needles to minimise sharing and consequently reduce the risk of transmission of Hepatitis C. This should include the recognition that policy relating to prisons and prison health needs immediate review. The need for needle exchange facilities and condom distribution initiatives within prisons will have an impact upon the spread of blood borne viral infections in particular the threat posed by Hepatitis C infection.

  HIV and tuberculosis will continue to impose significant morbidity and mortality. Investment is required to increase the availability of rapid diagnostic facilities for both tuberculosis and HIV.

Greater Manchester Health Protection Unit

October 2002

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