HC Deb 09 June 2000 vol 351 c404W
Mr. Caton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to make electrocardiogram community testing programmes more widely available to reduce Sudden Death Syndrome fatalities in young people; [124700]

(2) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of electrocardiogram testing in identifying heart problems in young people likely to make them susceptible to Sudden Death Syndrome; [124701]

(3) what assessment he has made of the causes of Sudden Death Syndrome in young people. [124702]

Yvette Cooper

Sudden Adult Death Syndrome is not one single condition but a group of conditions which result in the sudden and unexpected death of apparently healthy young adults.

Many of the deaths in this syndrome appear to be caused by cardiomyopathies. Our policy is that the relatives of a family with a known high risk of contracting this disease should receive regular cardiovascular examinations. We fully recognise the importance of all patients known to be at cardiac risk being referred for specialist clinical assessment. This examination and testing—perhaps more appropriately referred to as case-finding rather than screening—has been encouraged increasingly in recent years.

The United Kingdom National Screening Committee (NSC) advises Ministers on all aspects of screening policy. The NSC assesses proposed new screening programmes against a set of internationally recognised criteria to ensure that the programme does more good than harm. A recent review of the evidence for cardiomyopathy screening showed that a programme would not yet meet these criteria. However, we will keep this position under review as new evidence emerges.

In the meantime, the Department is working closely with the medical profession and voluntary organisations with a view to raising awareness and improving the diagnosis and testing of people at risk.