HC Deb 06 November 2003 vol 412 cc783-4W
Mr. Drew

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research evidence he has collated on the(a) incidence and (b) spread of head lice in schools; and what advice he offers head teachers to deal with the problem; [136009]

(2) what discussions he has had with the Department for Education and Skills on strategies to eliminate head lice in schools. [136010]

Dr. Ladyman

The Department's policy research programme and the central national health service research and development programmes are not currently supporting research into this subject, due to the pressure of other priorities. The Medical Research Council (MRC), which is funded by the Office of Science and Technology, commissions most of the Government's research into bio-medical and clinical issues. The MRC is always open to new sound scientific proposals, in competition with other applications.

Head lice infestation is a relatively common problem among school age children, which is dealt with at local level. Our policy, which is shared by the Department for Education and Skills, is to encourage a "whole school approach" to the detection and treatment of head lice. This entails encouraging parents to check their children and other family members for head lice as need arises, and arranging treatment where necessary with such advice and support from the local primary health care team (general practitioner, health visitor, school nurse or local pharmacist) as they may require. If this exercise is successfully undertaken at the same time by all parents of children within a school, then the spread of head lice will be arrested.

This Department is in regular contact with the Department for Education and Skills on a range of health issues relating to pupils' health, including the treatment of head lice. Officials from both Departments provide advice to schools and parents on head lice control, including a leaflet containing guidance on prevention and treatment. This is also available on the Department's website at: http://www.doh.gov.uk/headlice/including translations in 10 languages.