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Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 8 June 2022

Following the increased prevalence of cases of monkeypox in England, and transmission within the community for the first time, I would like to inform the House that as of Wednesday 8 June 2022, the following amendments have been laid and come into force:

The Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010 have been amended to include monkeypox as a notifiable disease in Schedule 1 and monkeypox virus as a notifiable causative agent in Schedule 2.

The National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 have been amended to include monkeypox in Schedule 1.

The public health assessment remains that the threat to the public is low. These amendments will support the UK Health Security Agency, or UKHSA, and our health partners to swiftly identify, treat and control the disease, and reduce potential financial barriers to overseas visitors in England who require NHS-funded secondary care services in relation to monkeypox.

Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010

From today, 8 June 2022, monkeypox is a notifiable disease and there is now an explicit legal duty on doctors to notify the “proper officer” of the relevant local authority if they see a patient they suspect of having the monkeypox virus in England. While we believe cases have been reliably notified to date, this amendment puts beyond doubt the legal obligation of doctors to report cases of suspected monkeypox. Placing a legal duty on doctors to report suspected monkeypox cases, and provide the relevant patient information, will strengthen our understanding of the virus and its transmission within the UK and, if required, support the implementation of timely prevention and control measures.

We have also placed a legal duty on laboratories to notify the UKHSA if they identify monkeypox virus when they test a sample in England, by listing the virus as a notifiable causative agent. Positive laboratory samples will be an important core dataset, strengthening surveillance and helping to inform our understanding of outbreak progression and trends to underpin action. Laboratory notification will also help to identify the links between cases and act as an important contingency if case notification by doctors has not occurred.

National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 (“the charging regulations”)

The charging regulations require providers of NHS-funded secondary care to make charges to people not ordinarily resident in the UK (“overseas visitors”) except where an exemption category applies.

We have taken swift action to ensure that, should an overseas visitor in England need NHS- funded secondary care services in respect of monkeypox, they will not face any charge for them. Providing such services without charge removes a potential financial barrier to overseas visitors presenting for NHS-funded secondary care, therefore ensuring that the risk to the public’s health from infected visitors is minimised. This brings monkeypox into line with most other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and covid-19.

The inclusion today of monkeypox in Schedule 1 of the charging regulations will mean that overseas visitors will not be charged for the diagnosis and treatment of monkeypox. The charging regulations have also been amended so that if any charges have already been incurred during this outbreak, they must be cancelled, or, if paid, they must be refunded.