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Volume 75: debated on Tuesday 12 March 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received concerning his guidance about the precautions to be taken concerning acquired immune deficiency syndrome.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that reasonable safeguards have now been taken to protect hospital staff from infection by the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus.

I am satisfied that the precautionary measures recently recommended by the advisory committee on dangerous pathogens in its interim guidelines on AIDS for clinical and laboratory staff are adequate. Indeed, in the view of some experienced clinicians, they are too stringent. The interim guidelines were issued on 16 January by Health Ministers and the Health and Safety Commission. We have so far received only a small number of inquiries and comments, mostly relating to the interpretation of wording or specific points of detail. We are learning more about the disease as time goes on and the guidelines will be reviewed in 12 months' time.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the concern of the National Union of Public Employees on behalf of its members employed in the National Health Service, such as nurses, ancillary staff and ambulance personnel? Is he also aware of the concern that has been expressed on behalf of other public servants such as police officers, prison warders and firemen? Will he provide clearer guidelines for those people and make a statement to allay the fears that exist among the general public on this issue, so as to avoid any question of panic arising? Is he further aware of the concern of hon. Members, as shown by the fact that early-day motion 374, tabled by me, has been signed by 103 hon. Members?

The guidelines are clear and should be reassuring. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, for example, in the United States, where there have been 8,000 cases of AIDS, there has not been one case of a hospital or laboratory employee contracting the disease as a result of his or her work.