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Infectious Diseases

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to overhaul the infectious disease services and to create new isolation units and hospitals for victims of such diseases. [107931]

There is already a network of specialist infectious disease units across the country and most hospitals have single rooms suitable for isolation.There are no immediate plans to create new specialist centres or isolation hospitals.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what measures are being taken to prepare (a) airports and (b) other entry points into the United Kingdom to deal with future outbreaks of infectious diseases in foreign countries; [111303]

(2) what programmes are planned to train airport officials in recognising potentially infectious persons before they enter the country. [111304]

The national health service locally is responsible for providing medical practitioners to undertake public health functions at ports, airports and railway stations handling international trains. These medical practitioners would be expected to know about relevant clinical aspects of communicable diseases as part of their normal professional learning, and the NHS would be responsible for ensuring that they are suitably equipped. Warnings of future threats from outbreaks of communicable disease in other countries and guidance on dealing with them will be cascaded through the NHS if the need arises.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what organisation would be responsible for coorclinating health operations in the event of a large scale outbreak of an infectious disease in a major population centre. [111305]

This aspect of the primary care trusts' accountability for control of infectious diseases is discharged by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which is responsible for the investigation and management of suspected communicable disease incidents affecting the community, including outbreaks of infection. The HPA's responsibility includes the preparation of multi-agency contingency plans, leading and co-ordinating the public health response, undertaking appropriate epidemiological investigation, providing advice to the public and professionals and convening multi-agency incident/outbreak control teams.The Chief Medical Officer discharges his responsibilities via the regional directors of public health, who play a key role in management of large scale incidents.The Department's emergency plans would be brought into effect when necessary to ensure that the national health service can cope with large numbers of patients. These plans involve co-operation between all the key organisations.