15 February 2001

Alison Halford (Delyn):

Will the Minister consider providing incontinence aids to poor patients in Wales free of charge. (OAQ9680)

Jane Hutt:

National health service authorities and trusts have discretion to supply incontinence aids to people living at home, in sheltered accommodation or in residential care homes. However, they do not have a statutory duty to do so. Provision depends on the availability of resources and the priority that they are prepared to give to this service.

Alison Halford:

In the light of recent academic research, is the Minister able to give an assurance that the regrettable closure of public toilets due to increasing costs and vandalism is not closely related to the increase in the incidence of urinary tract infections and associated conditions? Is she aware that women are at higher risk of such infections than men, for reasons I prefer not to discuss in this public forum?

Jane Hutt:

We are moving now from incontinence aids to public conveniences and I am not sure that I can make that connection. Public conveniences are a local authority responsibility also. It might be helpful to say that we are producing good practice guidance for continence services. I hope that that will include the issue of public conveniences because it genuinely concerns people. You raised an important point about continence and supporting vulnerable people who need good continence services. We must aim to provide good practice guidance for the whole of Wales, the service should not be left to the priorities of some health authorities or trusts.

Geraint Davies:

In view of the high incidence of chest diseases in Wales, and especially in the Valleys, do you think that there is a strong case for supplying nebulizers for free when a doctor advises that treatment?

The Presiding Officer: Order.

This question is not about chest diseases.

Geraint Davies:

It is about the supply of materials free of charge by the NHS.

Jane Hutt:

I think that I can make some connection back to incontinence aids.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Minister.

Jane Hutt:

To clarify this for Members, GPs can prescribe medicines and a limited range of medical appliances under the NHS. That depends on what is available through the NHS. We started on the subject of incontinence pads and we are now addressing the prescribing of other aids by GPs on the NHS. Chronic chest disease and respiratory infections are, unfortunately, common at the moment, as you may know from your work as a pharmacist, Geraint. We must bear in mind that the influenza vaccination this year, for the first time, was targeted at a much larger group of people who suffer from asthma and respiratory diseases. We are addressing the issues of chronic chest diseases. Chronic ill-health and disease management, as the health professionals call it, is a key part of my new national plan, which will consider the support that people need and the prevention of chronic chest diseases and asthma. 

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