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Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress is being made in identifying a vaccine to help asthma sufferers. [110317]

The National Heart and Lung Institute at the Imperial College, London is currently researching the development of a vaccine for asthma. The Institute has developed a prototype vaccine for people with an allergy to cats, which could eventually be applied to a range of allergens, including pollen and dust mites. 60 patients have received the prototype vaccine, with promising results. More work has to be done however, including extensive clinical trials. It will be necessary to establish whether the vaccine will pass the rigorous tests involved in the development of a new medicine.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on Government policy towards sufferers from asthma. [110335]

We recognise that asthma is a distressing and debilitating condition for individuals, their carers and their families. Asthma is the commonest chronic disease in the United Kingdom and affects all age groups. Its cause, despite much research world-wide, is still not known.The national service framework (NSF) for children is being developed to set standards for the care of children and young people to ensure all children and young people have access to good quality care. We have agreed that asthma, as one of the most common childhood conditions, should be used as one of the exemplars which will accompany the main NSF framework report. These will illustrate how the standards should be applied to ensure that services delivered to children are effective and meet their needs.Schools also need to be involved in a child's asthma care plan. For this reason, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health jointly issued "A Good Practice Guide—Supporting Pupils with Medical Needs", which encourages local education authorities and schools to draw up medical support policies and put in place effective management systems to support pupils with medical needs, such as asthma.In addition, we have welcomed guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) on inhalers for children under five in September 2000 and for older children, aged five to 15, on April 11 2002. The NICE recommendations provide clear evidence based on guidance on the most suitable inhalers for children.Management of asthma mainly takes place in primary care. The chronic disease management programme, introduced in July 1993, provides arrangements for health promotion under the general practitioner contract. Participating GPs, around 94 per cent. of the total, receive a fixed annual payment for running organised programmes of care for patients with asthma.A new general medical services contract agreement was launched on Friday 21 February 2003 which, if accepted by the profession, will lead to an unprecedented level of new investment in general practice to deliver a wider range of high quality services with better clinical outcomes for all patients.People with asthma will also benefit from the expert patients programme. The programme will provide, through the national health service, training in self-management skills for people with long-term chronic conditions. Expert patients can reduce severity of their symptoms, decrease their pain and increase their quality of life. 26 primary care groups or trusts are taking part in a pilot phase. One of these pilots—Medway Primary Care Trust, formerly Rainham and Gillingham Primary Care Group, in Kent—is proposing to focus self— management activity on people with asthma. The programme will be extended nation-wide by 2007.The NSF for older people has made a commitment to develop a service model on respiratory diseases in older people within the 10-year framework. The development of this service model will apply for all those who need these services regardless of their age, in a way similar to the current NSF service models on stroke and dementia.