§ Mr. Freud
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the efficacy of the voluntary national scheme for reporting congenital malformations detected within the first seven days of birth as an indicator of incidences of handicap; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
The primary aim of the voluntary national scheme for the notification of congenital malformations is for surveillance. The scheme was established in 1964 shortly after the thalidomide tragedy with the aim of speedily identifying any sudden increase in the prevalence of any malformation at birth.
The notification system was not intended to provide accurate figures on the overall prevalence of malformation or handicap, and its deficiencies in this respect are recognised.
However, we are satisfied that the system assists in the monitoring role intended for it. As with other regular reviews of statistics, the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and this Department are currently examining the working of the notification of congenital malformation scheme.