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NHS (Adverse Incidents)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to issue guidance to implement a new system for independent investigations and inquiries into adverse incidents in the NHS; and whether this will replace HSG (94) 27. [49776]

Ms Blears: In the report "Building a safer NHS for patients" published in June 2000, the Department set out its proposals for a new system for managing and reporting adverse events in the national health service which involved patients. This guidance will be issued within the next 12 months.

Health service guidelines (HSG) (94) 27 provides guidance for the health service on investigations into the care and circumstances of people in contact with specialist mental health services who commit homicide. "Building a safer NHS for patients" stated that such investigations would be covered in the new guidance; further guidance will be issued over the next year. In the meantime HSG (94) 27 remains in force.

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Marfan Syndrome

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been invested in research into Marfan syndrome since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [48845]

Ms Blears: The main Government agency for research into the causes of and treatments for disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC) which receives its funding via the Department of Trade and Industry. The MRC's total spend on Marfan syndrome since 1997 is approximately £3.5 million.

The Department funds research to support policy and the delivery of effective practice in health and social care. The Department also provides national health service support funding for research commissioned by the research councils and charities that takes place in the NHS. Management of much of the research supported by national health service research and development funding is devolved and expenditure at project level is not held centrally by the Department.

Details of ongoing and recently completed research projects funded by, or of interest to, the NHS are available on the National Research Register (NRR) at research/nrr.htm. The NRR projects database show that there are currently two ongoing and 23 completed research projects related to Marfan syndrome.

Strokes and Dysphasia

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what speech therapy treatment is available to patients recovering from strokes and sufferers from dysphasia who are under 65 years of age in the New Forest; and if he will make a statement. [49016]

Ms Blears: Information on the location of local services is not collected centrally.

We recognise that there is a need nationally for additional speech and language therapists. The NHS Plan, published in 2000, announced an increase in the number of training places for therapists and other health professionals, including speech and language therapists. By 2004 we intend to have established 4,450 more training places.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the total level of Government funding for research specifically related to Duchenne muscular dystrophy in the last six years has been; and what percentage this represents of the Government's total commitment to medical research in the last six years. [51141]

Jacqui Smith: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my hon. Friends the Members for Aberavon (Dr. Hywel Francis) and for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) today.

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how much funding went into research that is directly related to finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in the last 12 months; [51830]

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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information he has collated on total funding in each of the past three years for research on Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. [52050]

Jacqui Smith: The main agency through which the Government supports medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC is an independent body which receives its grant-in-aid from the Office of Science and Technology.

In the last six years the Medical Research Council (MRC) has spent around £3.8 million on muscular dystrophy as a whole. It is not possible to pull out Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy spending from this total, as much of the work is basic in nature and could apply to all forms of the disease. This represents 0.2 per cent. of the MRC's gross expenditure over this period.

MRC spending on muscular dystrophy research for 2001–02 is an estimated £950,000 which represents 0.24 per cent. of the total £394 million gross expenditure.

MRC spend in muscular dystrophy research for the last three years is in the table:


MRC spend


Figures for 2001–02 are estimates only. The figure for 2000–01 is higher than the £920,000 previously notified in parliamentary questions, UIN numbers 37124 and 37125 which we replied to on 26 February 2002. The MRC has now been able to produce a revised figure for spending on muscular dystrophy.

Clinical and laboratory services for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are available through existing networks of regional genetics centres. There has been an increased level of investment in genetic services in general. In his speech in April 2001 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a £30 million investment aimed at improving national health service genetics services, which families of people suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy will benefit from.

The Department has provided support over the last decade to the umbrella charity the genetic interest group, of which the Duchenne family support group is a member organisation. This funding has been targeted to a range of initiatives intended to raise awareness of all inherited diseases.

Alcohol Awareness

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to raise awareness of the issue of alcohol consumption among children of primary school age. [51557]

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Ms Blears: Drug education, including alcohol education, in maintained schools is statutory part of the national curriculum. At Key Stage 2, 7 to 11-year-olds should learn that tobacco, alcohol and other drugs can have harmful effects.

In addition to this, three years of focused effort has increased awareness among teachers and pupils of the dangers of alcohol misuse by:

Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Government's alcohol strategy will include a framework for raising awareness of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption when pregnant. [51825]

Ms Blears: We believe that it is important to ensure that women are aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy and we will certainly consider ways in which the national strategy to tackle alcohol misuse could be used to raise awareness.

Alcohol Consumption (Students)

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had regarding binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption among the UK student population; and what plans he has to limit the form and content of alcohol advertising. [51555]

Ms Blears: The Government work closely with the alcohol industry and regularly conducts meetings with a wide range of organisations within the industry. The Portman Group, which represents a range of bodies, is closely involved in meetings with Ministers and departmental officials and is consulted on policy developments along with other interested bodies and individuals. Alcohol advertising is governed by a voluntary code of practise which works well and there are no current plans to limit the form or content of alcohol advertising. The code of practise ensures alcohol advertising is socially responsible, and does not specifically target young people. All authorities operate complaints procedures.

Student Doctors

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the answer given to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham on 8 January 2002, Official Report, column 674W, on student doctors, how many students who registered to study medicine degree courses, subsequently dropped out of their courses before completion. [53322]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 29 April 2002]: I have been asked to reply.

The available information on non-completion rates is contained in "Performance Indicators in Higher Education in the UK" published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). This gives an overall non-completion rate for all full-time first degree courses

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of 17 per cent., but this figure is not available for individual subjects. The UK has the second lowest dropout rate among OECD comparator courses.

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