§ Ms Primarolo
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she has taken to examine ways of reducing children's artificial exposure to radiation, including X-rays.
§ Mr. Sackville
[holding answer 23 March 1994]: Practitioners carrying out medical exposures of radiation are required by regulation 4(3) of the Ionising Radiation (Protection of Persons Undergoing Medical Examination or Treatment) Regulations 1988 to keep doses of ionising radiation to the patient as low as reasonably practicable in order to achieve the required diagnostic or therapeutic purpose. A guide to good radiation practice was published in 1988 by the United Kingdom Health Departments, the National Radiological Protection Board and the Health and Safety Executive. These are the "Guidance Notes for the Protection of Persons against Ionising Radiations Arising from Medical and Dental Use", copies of which are available in the Library.
All practitioners wishing to administer radioactive medicinal products must hold a certificate issued under the Medicines (Administration of Radioactive Substances) Regulations) 1978. The Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee advises the Department and the United Kingdom Health Ministers on matters connected with the issue of certificates and has also issued guidance notes. Investigations concerning children are the subject of special advice within those guidance notes. The ARSAC keeps its advice under constant review.
Following the issue of health circular (89)18, copies of which are available in the Library, all health authorities were required to review the management of all departments making use of ionising radiation to ensure that they conformed to the statutory requirements and the guidance on good practice. They were also required to set up a system to review and periodically update their procedures in the light of changing guidance.
The Department of Health medical devices directorate issued safety guidelines for magnetic resonance diagnostic equipment in clinical use in 1993. Copies of the guidelines will be placed in the Library.598W
A further circular to the national health service is due to be issued later this year consolidating and updating advice on the statutory and management responsibilities in relation to the medical use of ionising radiations.
The Department is currently funding a research project designed to test the feasibility of parents keeping a radiation dose log book for their child's diagnostic and therapeutic radiation doses from birth until the age of five years.
The reduction in medical radiation doses for the whole of the population including children is under constant review. Officials are in contact with all the professional bodies involved in the medical use of ionising radiation and have regular discussions with them. Meetings and discussions are also held regularly with the royal colleges connected with radiology, the NRPB and the Health and Safety Executive.
The Royal College of Radiologists has produced a booklet entitled "Making the best use of a Department of Clinical Radiology—guidelines for doctors". This gives specific advice for paediatric radiology and copies will be placed in the Library.