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Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress made by the NHS in tackling osteoporosis since the publication of the Green Paper, Our Healthier Nation. [109089]

Since the publication of the Green Paper in February 1998, a number of steps have been taken to tackle osteoporosis. In June 1998, we launched a strategy aimed at reducing the number of fractures caused by osteoporosis. The strategy is evidence-based; prioritises treatment for those at higher risk of developing the disease; is easily accessible and encourages people to think about how they can play a part in preventing fractures and accidents and ultimately to prevent osteoporosis. Health authorities were recommended to use the strategy as a basis for developing their own local strategies.

Osteoporosis has been included in the falls standard of the national service framework (NSF) for older people. This standard requires each local health system to have a falls service in place by April 2005. These services must include appropriate interventions and advice to prevent osteoporosis.

We have asked the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to undertake an appraisal of pharmacological treatments for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis with a view to giving doctors the latest evidence based information on the most effective treatments for their patients. NICE expects to publish towards the end of the year. NICE is also drawing up clinical guidelines for the prevention and treatment of this disease. Although the guidelines are being developed to support the NSF for older people, they will have an effect on the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis at all ages.

Towards the end of 2002, we announced the first three pilot schemes for pre-retirement health checks for people approaching retirement, including one on osteoporosis. Pre-retirement is a good time to make people aware of lifestyle changes they can adopt to prevent the onset of this disease. These checks can also identify those in need of immediate treatment for established osteoporosis.