HC Deb 27 April 1999 vol 330 cc125-6
1. Mr. David Stewart (Inverness, East, Nairn and Lochaber)

When he expects to receive advice from the United Kingdom screening committee on targeted diabetes screening. [80989]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Sam Galbraith)

At the last meeting, on 17 March, the national screening committee agreed that a major focus of its work for the coming year would be to consider the case for a co-ordinated approach to screening for cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and the complications of diabetes. I hope that the committee will be able to make recommendations to Ministers by the end of this year. From 1 July 1999, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Stewart

I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful reply. He will be aware that diabetes is the main reason for blindness in under-65s. It contributes to half the lower-limb amputations in Scotland and consumes more than £2 billion of national health service resources in the UK as a whole. Does he share the view of the British Diabetic Association and its American counterpart, which have argued for a focused screening approach to diabetes to protect the high-risk groups such as the over-40s, the overweight and those with a family history of the disease? Does he share my view that early action and intervention is vital to fight what has been described as Scotland's silent killer?

Mr. Galbraith

First, I acknowledge once again my hon. Friend's interest in this matter and the tremendous contribution that he has made to the debate, to the benefit of all those involved. I do not want to prejudge the screening committee's conclusions, but it is important to tackle the serious complications of this disease. That can be done, in many cases, by making the diagnosis early.

As my hon. Friend knows, we are committed to the St. Vincent declaration to cut by a third end-stage renal failure due to diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy and blindness due to it, and to cut by half limb amputations due to peripheral vascular disease. That is a good package and he is to be congratulated on being partly responsible for pushing the issue for so long.

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