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5 Nov 2002 : Column 255W—continued

Acute Beds

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many acute beds there were in each of the last five years; and how many he expects there to be in the next 12 months. [78698]

Mr. Hutton: The average daily number of beds in acute wards in England since 1996 is:

YearAcute beds


Department of Health form KH03

The NHS Plan made a commitment to increase the number of beds in general & acute wards by 2,100 by 2004.

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BCG Vaccination

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the suspension of BCG vaccination programmes in schools. [78849]

Ms Blears [holding answer 4 November 2002]: There have been concerns over the school BCG programme following Evans Vaccines Ltd. withdrawing all batches of the BCG vaccine as a precautionary measure. However, the Danish company Statens Serum Institut (SSI) were granted a trading licence by the Medicines Control Agency for its BCG vaccine on 9 September this year.

Stocks of SSI's BCG vaccine are currently being packaged for the UK market and we hope to receive this in mid-November. Once BCG supplies are available, the priority will be to vaccinate those at highest risk of tuberculosis, principally new born babies whose parents are from higher risk communities or who live in high risk areas. The schools programme will then follow on afterwards.

Biological Drugs

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information he intends to provide to patients regarding the safe (a) transport, (b) storage and (c) use of biological drugs. [78489]

Ms Blears: information regarding the transport, storage and use of biological drugs is specifically provided on the product label and, in more detail, in the patient information leaflet (PIL). The PIL is supplied with the packaged product. Information and advice on transport, storage and handling of each medicinal product is based upon the scientific data, including the stability of the drug in the final packaging, which is evaluated as part of the marketing authorisation application.


Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies he has funded this year to consider the impact of patenting biotechnology inventions on health care provision; for what purpose such studies were funded; and when they will be published. [77875]

Ms Blears: The Department has commissioned an independent study into the impact and management of intellectual property rights within the health care sector. This fulfils the commitment made in the Government's response to the report on human genetic databases from the Select Committee on Science and Technology in the other place. The study is proceeding in two stages. The first stage is complete and a report entitled XIdentification of Intellectual Property Rights Relating to Healthcare" was published in September 2002. A conference to discuss the outputs of the second stage of the study and to build a consensus on possible actions is being planned for 12 February 2003.

Blood Products

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to submit all blood and blood derivative products available in the United Kingdom to the Medicines Control Agency; [75003]

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Ms Blears: There are no plans to submit blood and blood components to the Medicines Control Agency for licensing. We do not believe that doing so would confer any additional public health benefit. The Medicines Control Agency already ensures that the United Kingdom blood services meet European good manufacturing practice standards. In addition, the new European Blood Directive will, when adopted, require the accreditation of all blood establishments to ensure common standards of safety and quality in blood and blood components across all Members States. We have no plans to refer the use of all plasma products to NICE for evaluation. Safety issues relating to plasma products fall within the remit of the United Kingdom expert advisory committee on the microbiological safety of blood and tissues for transplantation (MSBT). MSBT seeks specialist advice where necessary or includes the relevant specialists among its members.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the safety of fresh frozen plasma and methylene blue treated plasma; and if he will make a statement. [75004]

Ms Blears: The Government's advisory committee on the microbiological safety of blood and tissues for transplantation (MSBT) is continuing to consider the relative efficacy and risks of the different types of fresh frozen plasma (FFP) available. United Kingdom FFP is already a very safe product. To minimise the risk from viruses, it is made only from previously tested blood donors. The current high levels of safety are achieved by screening out potential high risk donors and then further testing every unit of donated blood for the presence of infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. FFP produced by the national blood service (NBS), using UK donors, has also been leucodepleted to remove white cells, which evidence suggests may carry the greatest risk of transmitting vOD. Over 300,000 units of FFP are issued annually and it is only given in life-threatening situations to prevent or stop haemorrhage associated with abnormal blood clotting. MSBT has recommended importing single unit FFP from the United States. On 15 August 2002 the Government announced that imported FFP will be used for new-born babies and young children born after 1 January 1996, as an added precaution against the theoretical risk of vCJD transmission. On the advice of MSBT, US sourced FFP will be virally inactivated using methylene blue (MB) treatment. MB has been administered in medical practice since 1900, and in much larger doses (many thousand-fold) than the NBS will be using. NBS will be removing more than 90 per cent, of MB before the FFP is issued to National Health Service hospitals. MB is a registered medical device under the Medical Devices Directive and has a European safety (CE) marking.

Cardiac Surgical Services

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what further cardiac surgical services are planned in West London; and when they will be operational. [77970]

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Mr. Hutton: The parallel developments at Hammersmith Hospital and the Paddington Basin will see the creation of two specialist centres for heart surgery in north west London in modern facilities to replace the existing centres. The two centres will provide benefits of greater service concentration, including integration with a wider range of services, and a strengthened teaching and research capacity. Whilst the developments are underway investment is being made to improve existing services. This includes creating more surgical capacity where possible and replacing worn out equipment, including operating theatres and catheter laboratories to ensure that services continue to improve in line with patient and Government expectations.

Child Protection

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many child protection officers who had been in post for more than one year were active in each London borough and metropolitan borough in the last year; [78018]

Jacqui Smith: Data on the number of staff working in child protection are not available centrally.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what role the Department of Health plays in ensuring adequate child protection among vulnerable families living in Army garrisons. [78029]

Jacqui Smith: Local authorities have the statutory responsibility for the protection of the children of service families, including those living in army garrisons. All three armed services also provide professional welfare support, including Xspecial to type" social work services and, in some cases, medical services to augment those provided by local authorities. When UK service families are based overseas, the responsibility for the protection of their children is vested with the Ministry of Defence.

The Department of Health, the Home Office and the Department for Education and Employment, in jointly revising the XWorking Together to Safeguard Children" child protection guidance, were careful to remember the particular needs of children living in army garrisons. Appendix 2 of this guidance provides points of contact for armed forces arrangements for child protection.

Clinical Negligence

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to continue the pilot project for dealing with small clinical negligence claims; and if he will make a statement. [77917]

Mr. Hutton: The Chief Medical Officer has been reviewing arrangements for handling clinical negligence claims. Plans to implement any future measures for handling clinical negligence claims will be developed later this year in the light of Ministers consideration of the Chief Medical Officer's recommendations for reform.

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