HC Deb 27 January 2003 vol 398 c684W
Chris Grayling

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action has been taken to minimise the risks from disbanding the PHLS before the Health Protection Agency is fully functional. [90083]

Ms Blears

In England, most of the Public Health Laboratories Service (PHLS) laboratories which carry out general diagnostic microbiology are planned to transfer to national health service trusts by 31 March 2003. They are transferring with their current level of funding, which will be maintained for at least the first two years. Each transferring laboratory will have a public health microbiologist, who will work with consultants in communicable disease control, local authorities, the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre and other public health agencies. Service level agreements are being prepared to maintain this work. In addition, there will be a regional microbiologist in each of the nine public health regions, who will work with regional epidemiologists in the implementation of key infectious disease programmes as well as in the investigation of outbreaks of communicable disease. Regional microbiologists will also work to co-ordinate the work between the laboratories in the Health Protection Agency and the NHS. In Wales, PHLS laboratories and the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre Wales are transferring to the national public health service—Wales, on 1 April 2003.

The PHLS Board will remain in existence until primary legislation is changed. From 1 April 2003, we intend that it will be responsible for the production of media for microbiology laboratories, following the transfer of its other current functions to the HPA which we propose to create as a special health authority from the same date.