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Tuberculosis: Civil Servants

Volume 414: debated on Monday 27 October 1980

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What expressions of concern they received from civil servants working with immigrants about the risk of catching tuberculosis, and on how many separate occasions this concern was voiced; what medical advice they sought for issuing DHSS Circular SC/291; how many civil servants are known to have contracted tuberculosis in the three years prior to the issue of the circular; how many copies of the circular were distributed and to whom; and what was the total cost.

The Civil Service Department Medical Advisory Service (MAS) issued a general notice GEN 80/46 in June 1980 in response to requests for guidance on the precautions which might be taken in regard to tuberculosis. These requests came from personnel in the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Security. More general concern had also been voiced by trade unions representing DHSS staff about the need for advice regarding possible risks to health from communicable diseases arising out of their employment.The MAS notice, which was issued to all Government departments was aimed principally at staff working overseas and those having close contact with large numbers of recently arrived immigrants. DHSS staff circular SC/291, based on this general notice, was intended primarily for staff serving in local offices. Unfortunately, it summarised the general notice in a way that gave it a wider application than was intended. Arrangements are in hand to correct this. A copy of the DHSS circular was issued to each holder of the department's Staff Code (8700) at a printing cost of about £50. The number of cases of tuberculosis in civil servants occurring in the last three years is not known. However, in a survey of 3,714 cases referred for medical advice to the MAS in a recent 4-week period, pulmonary tuberculosis was noted as the primary diagnosis in 11 cases and non-pulmonary tuberculosis in two.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What advice has been given by the Medical Advisory Service of the Civil Service Department, and to which Government departments or other organisations, about the risk of contracting tuberculosis incurred by persons in contact with immigrants, and whether they will publish this advice.

The advice given is contained in a general notice to Whitehall departments, general notice GEN 80/46. Most Government departments send officials overseas from time to time and the advice is applicable to all. A copy of general notice GEN 80/46 and a list of consignees has been placed in the Library.House adjourned at ten minutes before twelve o'clock.