HC Deb 24 May 1994 vol 244 cc104-5W
Mr. Clapham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how frequently the instruments used by the medical boards for lung function tests are monitored to ensure uniformity of standards;

(2) when was the last review of the instruments used by the medical boards for lung function tests; and what was the conclusion.

Mr. Scott

The administration of medical boards is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Michael Clapham, dated 23 May 1994: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the instruments used by Medical Boards for lung function tests. The most recent review of the type of instrument used by the Adjudicating Medical Authorities (Medical Boards) was in March 1993, prior to the introduction of prescribed disease D12, Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema (PD D12). This review considered the type of instrument to be used in relation to PD D12. The instruments at examination centres are not portable, and, as many of the potential customers were elderly and housebound, there was a need to provide the Medical Boards with protable equipment. There was also a need to achieve consistency in recording, because the lung function result was an essential condition for the diagnosis question to be answered. This consistency is needed to cover use of the equipment in a variety of environmental conditions. The machine used was chosen because it is easily portable, simple to use and can be calibrated easily by the operator; it gives a computerised result showing recorded and predicted figures for the customer; it also produces a printed hard copy of the results and records the date of calibration for retention. The machines are regularly serviced, maintained and calibrated in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and they are replaced as soon as they become unserviceable. The airflow measurement system of the machine requires regular calibration to offset variations in volume due to ambient temperature changes. Re-calibration is carried out at the beginning of each examination session and after every ten tests when carried out at an examination centre. On visits to the customer's home the machines are re-calibrated each time before use. Several other types of machine are in use in Medical Boarding Centres for respiratory diseases, although these are not used for PD D12. They are not programmed with Professor Cotes' figures of comparative lung function volumes which are the standard for PD D12 diagnosis. These machines are non-portable and hold calibration well. In accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, adjustments are needed only every 6–12 months because they are static and less subject to ambient temperature variation. I hope you find this reply helpful.