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Rebalancing Project

Volume 586: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2014

12. What contribution his Department is making in support of the health objectives of the rebalancing project on dental checks for three-year-olds, foetal alcohol syndrome and lung screening for people over 60. (905549)

The hon. Gentleman and I have spoken a number of times about his valuable project. He knows that I am very interested in it and its outcomes. The Government are committed to improving oral health, with a particular focus on children, to reducing the incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome and to improving outcomes for all cancers. Results of major trials on lung cancer screening, including our own £2.4 million UK trial, are due in 2015. At that point, the UK national screening committee will review all the available evidence, looking towards a pilot.

The rebalancing project, which covers my constituency, is I hope an innovative way of working that does not require additional money from the Government, but focuses on key health inequalities, such as a dental check for every three-year-old, the foetal alcohol syndrome prevalence study that we are trying to do and lung cancer screening for everyone over 60. Will the hon. Lady keep an eye on this work, use her reputation as a very committed Minister and visit us in Nottingham to see whether the work we are doing can be spread elsewhere in the UK?

All the issues that the hon. Gentleman outlines are extremely important. We, too, are very interested in the prevalence study on foetal alcohol syndrome. He may be aware that the World Health Organisation has just launched some work in that area, which will be of great interest to him. It would of course be a delight to visit the project.

These are splendidly succinct answers. Perhaps the Minister should issue her textbook to her colleagues. That would be extremely useful.

The Canadian Government say that foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is the most important preventable cause of severe childhood brain damage. The Minister told me in Westminster Hall last week that the chief medical officer’s review of the evidence is continuing. Is not the truth, however, that the evidence has been available for years, and that the time has come for the review to be published and for there to be much greater protection for the thousands of children who are damaged each year by women drinking in pregnancy?

We had a good debate last week in Westminster Hall. My reply remains what it was then: there is not complete clarity in clinical evidence on safe levels of drinking. That is exactly why the chief medical officer—[Interruption.] From the Opposition Front Bench, I hear cries of “Yes, there is.” I am sorry, but I am backing the UK’s chief medical officer over Opposition Front Benchers when it comes to the clinical basis for this. The review is important and is under way. I know that all Members will be interested in its outcome, and in how we can help to publicise good guidance to women on this very important issue.