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Endometriosis

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to introduce measures to help women suffering from endometriosis. [121247]

[holding answer 2 July 2003]: There are many measures already in place to help women who suffer from endometriosis. We are determined to improve the awareness of endometriosis and provide funding to the National Endometriosis Society, through the Section 64 general grants scheme towards their core activities. We are also providing £39,000 to the society to produce information leaflets. One leaflet is for women to encourage those with symptoms to discuss with their general practitioner and another is for GPs to highlight the symptoms so they can refer women for investigation and treatment.We support GPs, knowing more about endometriosis. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence released a guide to the National Health Service in 2001 on appropriate referral practice. The referral advice covers eleven common conditions and has been developed as an educational resource for local health communities to develop their own local service guidelines. The advice is structured to provide clinical criteria on which to assess the urgency of referral across the range of conditions. Although endometriosis is not one of the conditions included in the advice, this might help give us an effective way of offering referral guidance to GPs on endometriosis among the range of other common conditions. We also want to see gynaecologists undertaking continuing professional development so they are kept abreast of the latest knowledge and best practice.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to ensure that (a) specialist care is available for endometriosis and (b) patient counsellors are available in (i) gynaecology wards and (ii) general practices. [124187]

The Government take endometriosis seriously and recognise that it affects the lives of many women and their families.There are some specialist clinics that treat advanced cases of endometriosis, but these have been developed locally in response to need rather than being organised nationally. We would need better evidence of their effectiveness and cost effectiveness before considering a greater national role in establishing specialist centres.Departmental officials met the National Endometriosis Society, to discuss issues about centres of excellence. I understand that they are intending to continue working together to see whether further work might be appropriate.We do not have any plans to introduce patient counsellors on gynaecological wards and general practice. The NHS University (NHSU) recognises the importance of good communication. The NHSU Induction and Communications Skills programme will be available to all staff joining the national health service on a roll out programme from October 2003. In addition, an advanced communication skills strategy is being offered initially to people working in the field of oncology, which again will be rolled out to other disciplines over time.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to provide further funding to enable research into endometriosis to progress. [124188]

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Phil Sawford) today.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to issue guidelines to health professionals to ensure early diagnosis of endometriosis. [124190]

We recognise the importance of improving the awareness of endometriosis among health professionals, particularly general practitioners, with whom women with this condition will first come into contact. It is the role of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce clinical guidance rather than the Department of Health. NICE is undertaking a referral practice project on advice to general practitioners about referring common conditions, the results of which should give us an effective way of offering referral guidance to GPs on endometriosis and other common conditions.The Department of Health is funding the National Endometriosis Society to produce information for GPs that will highlight the symptoms of endometriosis and encourage GPs to refer women appropriately for investigation and treatment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to promote and encourage research-into endometriosis; and what Government funding is available. [124259]

The main Government agency for research into the causes and treatments for disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC), which receives its funding from the Department for Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology. In 2001–02 (the latest year for which a figure is available), the MRC spent £1.2 million on research on both endometriosis and the general physiology of the endometrium.

The MRC always welcomes high quality applications from the scientific community for support into any aspect of biomedical research and these are judged in open competition with other demands on funding.

The Department of Health funds research to support policy and the delivery of effective practice in the national health service. The Department also provides NHS support funding for research commissioned by the research councils and charities that takes place in the NHS. In the NHS, research priorities are identified through widespread consultation with those using, delivering and managing services. They take account of the burden of disease, potential benefits and departmental objectives, as well as the responsibilities and work of other research funders. As an outcome of these on-going processes, the Health Technology Assessment Programme recently published the report of a research project on the management of menorrhagia, which is sometimes associated with endometriosis. A research report on the diagnosis of endometrial abnormality is expected to be published in February 2004.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to promote awareness of endometriosis among medical practitioners. [124260]

I refer the hon. Member to the response I gave the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. George Osborne) on 1 July 2003, Official Report, columns 228–29W.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his estimate is of the number of women in England and Wales who (a) suffer from endometriosis and (b) receive treatment for endometriosis. [124261]

An estimated two million women in the United Kingdom suffer from endometriosis. Services to identify, advise and treat are widely available on the national health service. In 2001–02, there were 16,600 hospital episodes with a primary diagnosis of endometriosis. However, these are only the treatments that are recorded as procedures within a hospital setting and do not include all women with endometriosis.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when (a) he and (b) his predecessors last met representatives of the (i) National Endometriosis Society and (ii) Simply Holistic Endometriosis Trust. [124262]

We acknowledge the role that voluntary organisations such as the National Endometriosis Society and the SHE Trust play in raising awareness of this condition and providing help and support to women. Officials at the Department of Health work closely with both the National Endometriosis Society and the SHE Trust.My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Ms Blears) spoke at an awareness seminar organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on endometriosis of which the National Endometriosis Society and the Simply Holistic Endometriosis (SHE) are members, in April of this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to reduce the length of time before women with endometriosis are diagnosed. [125814]

Endometriosis is not always easy to diagnose. However, there are clear 'pointers' for it in cases of prolonged painful periods, painful penetrative sex and unexplained infertility. General practitioners should refer patients for early laparoscopy.We are making funds available to the National Endometriosis Society to produce information leaflets that might help to reduce the time it takes for women to get an accurate diagnosis. One of these leaflets will be specifically for GPs to highlight the symptoms and encourage them to refer women for investigation and treatment. The other leaflet will be aimed at women encouraging those with symptoms to discuss the matter with their GP.In addition, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence is undertaking a referral practice project on advice to GPs about referring common conditions, the results might give us an effective way of offering referral guidance to GPs on endometriosis among a range of other common conditions.