To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what support the Government plans to provide to children and young adults affected by valproate after their birth (a) now and (b) over the next 10 years.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will meet people who have been harmed by sodium valproate during pregnancy; and what steps he has to provide compensation to such people.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps the Government is taking to reduce the number of babies harmed by valproate prescribed during pregnancy.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will make it his Department's policy to introduce a care compensation plan similar to plans already introduced in other EU states for people harmed by valproate prescribed during pregnancy since 1973.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what discussions (a) he, (b) Ministers and (c) officials of his Department have had with their counterparts in the EU regarding valproate.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of babies harmed by Valproate in pregnancy.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what measures the Government is taking to support children with birth defects as a result of valproate taken during pregnancy.
Valproate is an effective treatment for epilepsy and bipolar disorder but should only be used in girls and women of childbearing potential if other treatments are ineffective or not tolerated. For some women there may be no other treatment option. Because of ongoing concerns about women’s awareness of the risks, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has worked with professional bodies, voluntary organisations and patient groups to develop a set of materials to aid communication between health professionals and women and girls.
The valproate toolkit comprises booklets for healthcare professionals, a reminder card and a guide for women, a checklist for prescribers and clear package labelling carrying a prominent warning about use in pregnancy. The MHRA continues to work with stakeholders to disseminate information and ensure compliance with the statutory advice. On 6 April 2017, NHS Improvement and MHRA sent a Patient Safety Alert through the NHS Central Alerting System to further highlight risks to the unborn child and support the safety of girls and women taking valproate. The alert directs organisations to undertake systematic identification of women and girls taking valproate and to use the MHRA resources to support them to make informed choices. Consistent action was taken in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The impact of the measures taken is being monitored and studies show a steady decline in prescribing to women in childbearing potential. The adequacy of measures taken to date across Europe is being reviewed in a Europe-wide review that started in March 2017. There are ongoing discussions at official level as the review progresses. An expert working group of the Commission on Human Medicines has been convened to inform the United Kingdom position during the ongoing European Union review and consider other measures which may be required across the healthcare system to ensure compliance with the regulatory position in clinical practice.
France has its own legislation that allows for a state funded compensation scheme for medical accidents and they have amended this to include claims from those affected by valproate. We understand that this has been operational from June 2017. We are monitoring developments in France and do not feel that commissioning research is necessary at this time. We are not aware of similar action in other member states. There is currently no proposal to establish a care compensation plan specifically for those affected by valproate in the UK. However, the Government has great sympathy for those families who have been affected by the use of valproate in pregnancy. There is support available for families with children born with a disability. The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced a new statutory framework for local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to work together to secure educational, health and social care services for children and young people up to the age of 25 who have special educational needs or a disability (SEND).
Local authorities and CCGs must commission services jointly around a set of locally agreed outcomes to ensure that the needs of children and young people with SEND are met. Local authorities must also publish a clear, transparent ‘local offer’ of services available which has been developed for, and with, parents and young people. The reforms introduced by the Act are designed to reduce health inequalities, improve the experiences of children and young people with SEND, and their families, and deliver integrated services to achieve improved outcomes.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (Lord O’Shaughnessy) is meeting with the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-epileptic Drugs in Pregnancy to discuss these issues later this year; members of the Independent Fetal Anti Convulsant Trust may wish to attend also.