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Cervical Cancer Screening

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to improve the quality of cervical cancer screening following the recall by Lincoln County Hospital of women whose smear test results were incorrectly reported. [28034]

Ms Jowell [holding answer 6 February 1998]: The regional quality assurance programme found lower than expected levels of reporting of smear abnormalities at Lincoln and Louth National Health Service Trust. On the basis of this, the trust took swift action in ordering a re-read of a number of smears, and some women have now been recalled. We are pleased that the quality

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assurance system in place in the Trent region did its job properly in identifying the problem, and that rapid action was taken to put it right.

Wide ranging action to help ensure consistent high quality and dependability in cervical screening across the country was announced last year in the light of a failure of the cervical screening programme at Kent and Canterbury NHS Trust. We announced that there would be a review of the performance of all cervical screening programmes, and that, where necessary, action plans would be drawn up to help ensure national standards are met on 3 November 1997, Official Report, columns 19-28. EL(97)67 was also issued. In addition, we are tightening up accountability for quality assurance. In December, we announced a package of measures to promote consistent high quality in laboratories undertaking cervical screening (EL(97)83 refers). In particular, all laboratories must apply this year for external quality accreditation and there will be targeted refresher training for staff in laboratories which do not meet key quality indicators. The Chief Medical Officer has set up an action team to monitor progress.


Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 3 February 1998, Official Report, column 614, what are the percentages of (a) females and (b) males who have used an illegal drug by the age of (i) 16 and (ii) 24 years. [28195]

Ms Jowell: The information available centrally is given in the table.

Percentage of males and females who indicated that they had ever taken drugs, 1996, England and Wales

Age 16 to 19Age 20 to 24


Percentages rounded to the nearest whole figure.


1996 British Crime Survey

For males and females aged 15 to 16 a schools based survey conducted by McMiller and Plant (British Medical Journal 1996, 313, 394-97) found that 45 per cent. of boys and 40 per cent. of girls aged 15 to 16 in the United Kingdom reported ever using illicit drugs.

NHS Care (Failures)

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 3 February 1998, Official Report, column 3 what contribution the number of patient deaths caused by failures of NHS services will play in his future assessment of the quality of NHS services. [28196]

Mr. Milburn: We are committed to improving the quality of National Health Service care and to minimising avoidable and premature deaths, whatever their causes. We are consulting on a new National Framework for Assessing Performance in the NHS and on an associated set of high-level performance indicators. The proposed

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high-level indicators include "avoidable deaths" and "in-hospital premature deaths", though neither necessarily relates directly to failures of NHS services.

Neuroleptic Drugs

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of trials recently undertaken in the USA into the effects on in-patients of withdrawing neuroleptic drugs. [28134]

Ms Jowell: We are not aware of these recent trials.


Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list by title the publications produced by his Department between 1 May 1997 and 31 January 1998. [26326]

Ms Jowell: This information is not collected centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what meetings his Department has hosted with non-governmental bodies or individuals to discuss the setting of targets for levels of human sodium intake; and if he will make a statement on the results of such meetings and list those who attended; [28535]

Ms Jowell: The evidence on the relationship between sodium consumption and blood pressure was considered by the Government's source of independent expert advice, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy. It is cited in their report "Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease", published in 1994. As part of their consideration, experts were invited to present views and the names of those who gave oral or written evidence are also cited in the report. Copies of the report are available in the Library.

The Faculty of Public Health Medicine, in collaboration with the British Heart Foundation, hosted a seminar at the request of the Department to bring together a wide spread of scientific opinion to consider the advisability of a reduction in sodium consumption for the general population. A report is expected later this year.


Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the amount by which the average per capita consumption of fruit salads and vegetables would have to increase to have a measurable impact on those causes of mortality where poor diet is judged to be a significant contributory factor. [28537]

Ms Jowell: The Government's source of independent expert advice, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy, recommended in its report "Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease" published in 1994 that, on average, individuals should increase their fruit and vegetable consumption by 50 per cent. Copies of the report are available in the Library. It

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was on this basis that we now recommend that people should try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

NHS Trusts (Appointments)

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the NHS trusts to which he appointed new chairs in the last round of appointments indicating the names of the new chairs. [28890]

Mr. Milburn: The information will be published in March in the Department's Public Appointments Annual Report.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to reply to the letter from Councillor Brian Yates of Jubilee Terrace, Kingswear, Devon, of 14 December 1997 concerning the nomination and selection of individuals to the boards of NHS trusts. [28351]

Mr. Milburn: We have no record of the letter from Councillor Yates ever having been received.



Mr. Clappison: To ask the President of the Council what representations she has received regarding the Government's strategy on the problem of illegal drug use among young people. [26134]

Mrs. Ann Taylor: Keith Hellawell--the UK Anti-Drugs Coordinator--is currently co-ordinating an extensive consultation process to inform his drafting of proposals for a new anti-drugs strategy, which he will submit to Ministers shortly. Since the announcement of his appointment last October, Mr. Hellawell and his Deputy, Mike Trace, have received over 2,000 letters from all sectors of society. They are also engaged in a comprehensive series of visits and meetings with professionals, young people and communities across the country.

Privy Council

36. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what criteria are used in appointments to the Privy Council. [26133]

Mrs. Ann Taylor: Appointment to the Privy Council is an exercise of the prerogative. Appointments are made by Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. A range of factors are taken into account. Those appointed mostly comprise Ministers, other Parliamentarians and members of the judiciary.



Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how long on average it takes his Department to answer letters from hon. Members; what target date his Department sets; what percentage receive replies within

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the target date; and what assessment he has made of how long it takes to deliver a letter after it has been typed. [27043]

Dr. David Clark: On average it takes 13 days for my Department to answer letters from hon. Members.

The Cabinet Office (Office of Public Service) sets a target of fifteen working days from receipt to reply to all letters.

From 1 May to 31 December 1997, 90 per cent. of letters from MPs received a full reply within the target date. A further 7 per cent. received interim holding replies within the target date.

Once letters have been signed, they are dispatched without delay for delivery to the Palace of Westminster (or, when requested, the Member's constituency office). It is usual for letters to be delivered to the House within one working day of being signed by the appropriate Minister, and in many cases they will arrive on the same day.

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