HC Deb 12 March 2002 vol 381 cc1002-3W
Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on the work of the UK Human Tissue Bank; if he will make a statement on their work; what advice has been issued to NHS trusts about the collection by the UK Human Tissue Bank of non-transplantable human tissue from hospitals nationwide; what has been done to encourage the use of human tissue by scientists operating within the UK; and what evidence he has collated as to the efficacy of using human tissue rather than animal subjects in tests. [25444]

Ms Blears

I apologise to my hon. Friend for the delay in responding to this question. I refer him to the reply that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) on 5 March 2002,Official Report, column 192W.

All Tissue Banks in the public sector supplying human tissues for therapeutic purposes to the NHS are required to be accredited by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) by 31 March 2003. An MCA inspection will determine whether the bank complies with the standards set out in—"A Code of Practice for Tissue Banks: providing tissues of human origin for therapeutic purposes."

The UK Human Tissue Bank (UK HTB) is a not for profit organisation based at De Montfort university, Leicester. They collect, process and distribute non-transplantable human tissue for research purposes to scientists working in universities, medical institutions and the pharmaceutical industry. UK HTB have had discussions with Department officials, the Medical Research Council (MRC), and the MCA seeking clarification of departmental policy. They have not written or met with Ministers.

The MRC supports the principle of human tissue banks for research, and actively encourages the deposition and use of human tissue samples, where appropriate. The MRC Guidelines 'Human tissue and biological samples for use in research' observes that use of such [human] material can … reduce both the research demands on patients and the need to use animals".

In the light of Alder Hey and events elsewhere, we are committed to a fundamental review of the law concerning the taking, storage and use of human tissue from both the living and the dead, including organs and tissues for transplantation. The Chief Medical Officer made 17 specific recommendations regarding the removal, retention and use of human organs and tissue. An extensive programme of implementation is well under way, led by the Department of Health, which is working closely with other Government Departments and other agencies. This includes work to review the Human Tissue Act and the Human Organ Transplants Act and common law. A consultation document will be issued shortly.