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17 Nov 2004 : Column 1684W—continued

Hospital Stays

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what tracking of hospital bed use is conducted by the Department to monitor appropriate use according to criteria on whether a hospital stay is required. [198243]

Mr. Hutton: The Department does not centrally collect information on the appropriate use of hospital beds. It does, however collect data on the number of delayed discharges from national health service acute care.

Significant progress has been made in this respect. Between September 2001 and June 2004 the number of people delayed in hospital reduced from 7,065 to 2,742.

Influenza Vaccination

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure continuity of supply of influenza vaccine. [197980]


 
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Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department has contacted all suppliers of influenza vaccine to ensure that there are adequate stocks available this winter. There are currently over 500,000 doses of vaccine still available to order.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what mechanisms his Department uses to ensure that there are enough influenza vaccines available each winter before the influenza vaccination campaign begins. [194250]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Officials at the Department meet with influenza vaccine suppliers to discuss vaccine requirements each winter based on current policy.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the availability to practice nurses of influenza vaccines in time for the winter influenza vaccination campaign; and what plans his Department has to improve that availability. [194251]

Miss Melanie Johnson: General practitioners order influenza vaccine direct from the supplier of their choice. The Department has contacted all suppliers of influenza vaccine to ensure that there are adequate stocks available this winter. We have issued advice and details to the profession, via influenza immunisation coordinators, of where supplies of influenza vaccine can be obtained as well as making our contingency stock available to those practices affected by any delays.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures have been taken to ensure that the elderly, the young and the ill are given priority in receiving the influenza vacination. [193366]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department has contacted all suppliers of influenza vaccine to ensure that there are adequate stocks available this winter. Those recommended to receive influenza vaccination will still get protected within the recommended timescale.

Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to encourage people over the age of 65 years to take up the influenza vaccination. [195900]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We launched a campaign on 4 October incorporating a number of strategies aimed at encouraging people over the age of 65 to receive their influenza immunisation. The campaign incorporated:

The Chief Medical Officer wrote to all general practitioners with details of this year's influenza programme in his letter of 9 August 2004.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he estimates all general practitioners and health centres in the Castle Point and Rochford Primary Care Trust will have sufficient supplies of influenza vaccine to meet demand; and if he will make a statement. [190972]


 
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Miss Melanie Johnson: None of the surgeries or health centres in Castle Point or Rochford is without influenza vaccine.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been carried out by his Department into the risks of additional (a) cases and (b) deaths from influenza because of delays in the influenza vaccination programme due to the problems with the safety of the Chiron vaccines. [191499]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Influenza vaccinations are carried out by general practitioners in October and November before flu usually starts to circulate. Those recommended to receive influenza vaccination will still get protected within the recommended timescale.

Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that sufficient supplies of vaccine are available for the different types of influenza that may reach the British Isles in the coming winter; and if he will make a statement. [195145]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We contacted all suppliers of influenza vaccine to ensure that adequate stocks of vaccine would be available this winter as well as making the Department's contingency stock available to those surgeries who needed it. The vaccine available meets the strain of flu virus recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Vaccine is still available from the Department's contingency stock and suppliers.

Passive Smoking

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for how many people diagnosed with lung cancer in each of the last three years secondary smoke was found to be a contributory factor. [196003]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Data on the diagnosis of lung cancer is not collected in the form requested.

The 1998 report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) concludes that there is a 24 per cent. increased risk to non-smokers of lung cancer from secondhand smoke.

In 2002, an almost identical increased risk was identified by the International Agency on Research into Cancer (IARC). The latest report by SCOTH, which is a review of studies since 1998, has been published with the White Paper on public health.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will estimate the number of workers who die each year as a result of second-hand smoke in the workplace; [191494]

(2) if he will estimate the number of people who die each year as a result of second-hand smoke. [191495]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The 1998 report from the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) estimated that there are "several hundred deaths a year" due to lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke. The Committee did not estimate the number of deaths due to other causes linked to second-hand smoke, such as heart disease or sudden infant death syndrome, or the number of deaths in the workplace. An updated SCOTH report
 
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on second-hand smoke has been published with the White Paper on public health. Copies are available in the Library.

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the independence of the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. [190498]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The full range of operations of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have been reviewed regularly, including an assessment of its independence. For example, a value-for-money audit was conducted by the National Audit Office (NAO). Its findings were presented in January 2003. Among other things, the NAO examined the measures in place to manage potential conflicts of members of the advisory committees.

The Government have been considering how to increase transparency in their approach to handling interests of experts who sit on the MHRA's advisory bodies and increase the involvement of patients and the public in their work. On 11 November, the Government announced a new structure for the advisory bodies that advise Ministers on matters relating to the Medicines Act 1968, the exercise of powers under the Act or otherwise relating to human and veterinary medicines. In the future, each advisory body will include two patient or lay representatives on each committee.

The Government also announced a public consultation on proposals to tighten the approach to interests that will apply to the chairs and members of the new committees.

The consultation document, issued by the MHRA, is available on its website and has been placed in the Library.

The new structure requires changes to the Medicines Act 1968 and the Government aim to introduce the legislature changes early in 2005.


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