§ Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research her Department has funded in response to the proposals of the Audit Commission report "Children First" on data about the outcome of health care in childhood and the prevalence of disability among very low birthweight babies who survive into childhood; and if she will make a statement.800W
§ Mr. Sackville
The publication, earlier this year, of the report of the Audit Commission's study into hospital services for children was welcomed by the Government, particularly the emphasis which it placed on monitoring health outcomes. The vital importance placed by the Government on evaluating both the short-term and long-term impact of neonatal intensive care interventions had been acknowledged at paragraph 2.7.10 of their response to the second report from the Health Committee, 1991–92—Cm 2018—in July 1992. This also referred to a number of population-based studies which had been commissioned to look into the long-term effects on survivors of care.
Since then, the Medical Research Council, which receives its grant in aid from the office of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has helped to fund a study of the outcomes for babies weighing less than 1,500 gm at a number of different hospitals and examining a range of different risk factors, including birthweight, which make up the clinical risk index for babies. This study is being extended on a national basis and the results are expected later next year.
The national perinatal epidemiology unit, a centrally funded Department of Health research unit based in Oxford, has done some preliminary pilot work with Action Research into the detection of trends in morbidity and disability in seven-year-old children of different birth-weights. The Department has been closely involved in this exercise which may lead to the development of a national monitoring system.