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14 Oct 2002 : Column 481Wcontinued
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 13 November 2001, Official Report, column 682W, on nutrition (1)(a) how many and (b) which of the six key targets under the Better Hospital Food Programme by (i) region and (ii) health authority will have been fully delivered by the end of (A) December 2001, (B) February 2002 and (C) April 2002; 
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in the table. Figures available for periods prior to June 2002 were based on forecast information from National Health Service trusts. No information about the position at the end of March 2002 was collected.
The better hospital food programme, announced in the NHS Plan and launched in May 2001, is a long-term initiative aimed at improving the quality and availability of food in hospitals. It is backed by the provision of an extra #38.5 million.
The NHS Plan made it clear that the variability in the quality of hospital food across the country is not acceptable. The standards set out in the better hospital food programme are designed to reflect changes in preferences and lifestyles over the past few years, provide patients with better access to meals/drinks and ensure that patients get the help they need through the housekeeper programme.
The NHS has made a great deal of progress with the implementation of the better hospital food programme. Where progress has been made with introducing the programme, patients are already noticing and appreciating the difference. The current position means that each day nearly 100,000 patients can access catering services around the clock; some 55,000 now get two new snacks twice a day and some 60,000 enjoy the new dishes designed by leading chefs.
To assist in this #2.1 million has recently been allocated to a number of NHS trusts and primary care trusts to enable them to further develop house-keeper services and to accelerate the progress already made in improving the range and quality of food services available to patients.
Our plans are for further and sustained improvements to the standard and range of hospital food which will in turn mean that clinical benefits of improved nutrition are also realised with consequential benefits for patients and the NHS as a whole.
|All Acute Hospitals (360) NumberPer cent.||London Region (54) NumberPer cent.||Midlands Eastern Region (90) NumberPer cent.||Northern (121) NumberPer cent.||Southern (95) NumberPer cent.|
|Ward Kitchen Services||256||71.5||38||70.4||65||72.2||85||70.2||68||71.6|
|Snack Box Services||210||58.7||32||59.3||44||48.9||71||58.7||63||66.3|
|Main Meal Evening||280||78.2||46||85.2||70||77.8||96||79.3||68||71.6|
|Leading Chef Dishes||142||40.0||21||38.9||22||24.4||52||43.0||47||49.5|
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the mandate of the EU Scientific Committee on medical products and medical devices is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the United Kingdom representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if he will list the items currently under its consideration; if he will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears: The mandate of the Scientific Committee on Medicinal Products and Medical Devices is to consider scientific and technical questions relating to Community legislation concerning medicines for
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human and veterinary use without prejudice to the specific responsibilities of the Committee for Proprietary Medical Products and the Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products in the context of the evaluation of medicines. The Committee also considers scientific and technical questions relating to Community legislation concerning medical materials and equipment.
The United Kingdom's representative on the Committee is David Williams, Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. The European Commission pays the travel expenses for the Committee representatives. The costs to UK public funds are therefore the accommodation costs for the delegate attending meetings. Such costs are not readily available and would incur disproportionate cost to identify.
The Committee considers a wide range of scientific and technical issues relating to medicinal products and medical devices. Subjects raised at the last meeting of the Committee included discussion of an interim report on PVC in medical devices for infants and the effects of Xylitol and other Polyols on Caries development. Agendas for Committee meetings can be accessed on the European Commission's website. A summary of the Committee's discussions is posted to the European Commission's website after each meeting and further details and documents are available from the European Commission on request.
Mr Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the theoretical risk of human beings contracting new variant CJD as a result of eating sheep and goat meat (a) under current regulatory arrangements and (b) if intestine were added to the list of specified risk material. 
Ms Blears: I am advised by the Foods Standards Agency, that an agency sponsored risk assesment of the theoretical risk of eating sheep meat indicates that, if BSE were present in sheep, current precautionery measures could reduce the risk by very approximately one third. It is also estimated that the addition of intestines to the current list of specified risk material could double the impact of these measures. In June 2002 the Agency recommended to the European Commission that sheep intestine be added to the list of specified risk material as a precautionary measure against the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep. The issue will be considered by the European Scientific Steering Committee who classify sheep and goats together in terms of the potential risk from BSE.
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies have been (a) undertaken by his Department and (b) carried out by non departmental public bodies responsible to his Department in the past year on potential health hazards of the use of the MMR vaccine. 
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Ms Blears: The Department has not undertaken any research itself, but has funded both the public health laboratory service (PHLS) and national institute for biological standards and control (NIBSC) to undertake research studies on safety issues of the combined, measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
NIBSC recently completed a study to compare the sensitivities of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods used in a number of international laboratories. This study was designed to compare the sensitivities of assays used by NIBSC and others in order to validate their abilities to detect measles ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the tissues of children with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and autism. This work has recently been submitted for publication.
The Department has also provided further funding to extend this work. The new study will bring together a number of clinical units who are providing tissue samples from patients diagnosed with IBD and autistic spectrum diseases. These samples will be tested for measles RNA at NIBSC and will also be sent to different laboratories to compare the sensitivities of the methods used. The results from this study will be published as soon as they are completed.
With Departmental funding, the PHLS have carried out a study that looked for evidence of associations between MMR vaccination, bowel problems and developmental regression in children with autism. They used a data linkage system, established by PHLS, which links clinical notes with independant computerised vaccination records in the former Thames regions. The results have been published in peer reviewed scientific journals (Taylor B, Miller E et al (2002) Measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and bowel problems or developmental regression in children with autism: population study BMJ, 324 393-396). The research group has also looked at a number of other putative adverse events after MMR vaccine using this linkage system: gait disturbance, invasive bacterial infection, aseptic meningitis and purpura.
Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if the MRC will conduct an epidemiological comparison survey one year after the vaccines were administered between (a) children who have had a single antigen vaccine or none at all and (b) with children who have had the MMR vaccine; 
Ms Blears: The Medical Research Council (MRC) does not, as a rule, commission research but welcomes high quality applications for support in any scientific area which will further our understanding of autism and especially those areas which were highlighted in the recent MRC review of autism.
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