Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I have an interest to declare, but not a financial one, as president of the Haemophilia Society.
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, is it not cruelly wrong in principle that people with the same disability are given or refused safer medical treatment according to whether they live in Scotland and Wales or in England? And more especially so when contaminated blood products that were prescribed for them have already taken the lives of over 1,000 haemophiliacs in the NHS's worst-ever treatment disaster. Is it not also plainly wrong that even the current policy of entitling children in England to the safer recombinant treatment is sometimes ignored? What have Ministers done to protect such vulnerable children? When will right be done?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I acknowledge the force with which my noble friend and the Haemophilia Society have put forward the case over recent years. There is no evidence that recombinant clotting factors are more efficacious than plasma-based products. My noble friend is certainly right to suggest that policy varies in different parts of the United Kingdom, with Scotland and Wales committed to providing recombinant treatment for all haemophilia patients. As I said, we very much understand the concerns of the people who have been so tragically affected, and we are considering the position in England.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that patients with haemophilia are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining dental treatment? When those patients have been refused and have taken up the matter with the United Kingdom Haemophilia Centre Doctors Organisation, they have
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I believe that the reference to variant CJD has come about because consultation on risk assessment in relation to the use of medical instruments has just concluded. However, I shall be happy to follow up this matter with the noble Baroness. If she has specific cases to bring to my attention, I shall certainly be prepared to look into them. In relation to access to dental treatment, I would also expect community dental services at local level to be asked to look into matters which affect people locally.
Lord Addington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this matter concerns the basic safety of the treatment? As recombinant treatment is seen to be safer and more efficient, is it not the case that a group who historically have suffered so badly should receive that treatment straightaway?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says. As I said, the matter is being considered carefully by the Government at present. However, the advice that I have received is that there is no evidence that recombinant clotting factors are more efficacious than plasma-based products. But, of course, I recognise the feelings of those in the community and the fears of parents of children and, indeed, of all those who receive blood products through infectious agents. That is why the Government are considering the matter.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I also declare an interest as a vice-president of the Haemophilia Society. Is the Minister aware that in Newcastle upon Tyne 75 per cent of haemophiliacs have contracted HIV? In addition, bearing in mind the problems of CJD and hepatitis C, is it not time that haemophiliacs were given the safest possible form of clotting agents?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not believe that I can add to the response that I gave to the noble Lord. As I said, the advice that I have received is that as yet there is no evidence to suggest that there is an issue of safety between the different products. We understand the feelings of those in the community who are involved and affected by the tragic events that have occurred. We are obviously considering the matter.
Lord Turnberg: My Lords, if it is now possible for the manufacturers of recombinant factor 8 to produce a sufficient amount of the treatment for everyone who might need it, is there now any reason why that material should not be available to all haemophiliacs, regardless of age?
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, if the Minister and his colleagues are prepared to consider beta interferon for MS sufferers, why should the Government not enter into a novel risk-sharing arrangement over recombinant clotting factors as they have done in relation to beta interferon?
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, further to my noble friend's reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, can he tell the House how many people with haemophilia have received blood that was donated by donors who have since died of variant CJD?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the figures so far are that eight people with variant CJD are known to have been blood donors and 22 people have been identified as having received transfused blood from donors who later developed variant CJD. I understand that the total number of deaths from variant CJD is 106.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the contingency plan provided a general overview of our planned response to an outbreak and was approved by the European Commission. It was a strategic plan supported by detailed operational guidance and veterinary instructions. An interim contingency plan is now being
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am puzzled. The Minister has not answered my question. I asked whether the contingency plan has been implemented and, if so, when. I have the impression that it never was implemented. Am I correct?
Lord Whitty: No, my Lords. The noble Countess should listen more carefully. I indicated that the contingency plan provided the general overview by which we responded to the disease. I have told the House before that part of the problem with the original contingency plan was that we assumed that we were faced with a new outbreak, whereas in fact the outbreak had been spreading for some considerable time due to the trading patterns within the industry at that time. Nevertheless, it provided the strategic overview that we followed. Therefore, it was implemented in line with what we had told the European Commission. Since then, in some respects we have had experience of the shortcomings of that plan, although the bulk of it still stands. We are learning those lessons and we are now drawing up a new contingency plan.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am slightly surprised by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, being "smidgy"sharpto the noble Countess, Lady Mar, as he did not answer her Question. The guidance clearly states that the person in charge should be the chief vet. Can the Minister confirm that, at the beginning of the outbreak, the chief vet was in charge but was removed, that the chief scientist then took charge and was removed, and that the Prime Minister then took charge and everything went wrong?
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