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Carbon Monoxide

Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will take steps to raise awareness of medical practitioners of the risks to health of carbon monoxide and the symptoms, diagnosis and consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning. (182673)

The Department is committed to helping to prevent deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and raise awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning among the public and medical profession. A range of specific actions to achieve this have been and continue to be taken, many of which are specific to medical practitioners.

In his winter update issued in November 2007, which is sent to all doctors registered with the General Medical Council in England, the chief medical officer (CMO), Liam Donaldson, provides a range of advice on diagnosis of CO poisoning, including the use of neurological examination.

This builds on two previous publications, the advice of which is still current: the CMO winter 2005 update and the CMO and chief nursing officer (CNO) joint letter issued in 2002. The CMO’s update includes recognition of the symptoms of CO poisoning, key questions to ask in diagnosis, appropriate tests and treatment. The CMO/CNO letter, distributed to community nurses, midwives, health visitors and general practitioners, provides detailed advice on recognising the symptoms of CO poisoning and specific advice about investigations and testing techniques.

In addition, the Department has recently called for research to investigate the incidence of CO poisoning, health outcomes and patients’ experience following exposure, which will help inform the development of appropriate policy.

The Department also provides funding for leading national voluntary organisations through the Section 64 General Scheme of Grants, which helps in their work in raising awareness about the dangers of CO with both the public and health professionals and in supporting victims and providing information on how to prevent poisoning.

In collaboration with key stakeholders, the Department is currently looking at options for new awareness-raising initiatives as well as reviewing activities in which it is already engaged.