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Tuberculosis: Screening

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps his Department has taken to ensure the effectiveness of tuberculosis screening programmes of incoming visitors at (a) Heathrow and (b) Gatwick airports; (325752)

(2) how many qualified medical staff are employed at each UK airport for the purpose of screening incoming visitors for tuberculosis;

(3) how much his Department has spent on the provision of (a) x-ray equipment for tuberculosis screening at UK airports and (b) salaries of staff conducting such screening in each year since 2004.

The Department has provided capital funding of £8 million for the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to install new digital x-ray machines at Gatwick and Heathrow to replace the old ones in a phased programme across 2008-09. These have been installed and are fully functioning.

In addition, an electronic notification system for results of screening is being piloted across the country to replace the paper notification system.

Medical inspectors are employed at two airports (Gatwick and Heathrow) for the purposes of tuberculosis (TB) screening. At Heathrow there are currently 4.8 permanent whole-time equivalent (WTE) plus locum staff (approximately 1.5 further WTE). At Gatwick, there are two WTE plus one WTE locum staff. At other airports, the medical inspection function is fulfilled on a part-time contract basis.

Funding for medical inspection function since 2004 has been provided by primary care trusts and the HPA under various local arrangements, some in partnership with local authorities. Details of such funding, and staff deployment, are not collected centrally.