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Body Piercing

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent representations he has received on the need for further regulation of body piercing; [99889]

Yvette Cooper: The Government believe there should be primary legislation introduced to give local authorities outside London powers to regulate the hygiene and cleanliness of cosmetic body piercing businesses, when parliamentary time allows.

We have received a small number of letters from hon. Members, local authorities and members of the public about the further regulation of cosmetic body piercing businesses.

Prostate Cancer

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to encourage a greater awareness of the early signs of prostate cancer in men. [99871]

Yvette Cooper: We are concerned to promote awareness of prostate cancer and its symptoms. The Department and the Health Education Authority currently produce a range of literature on cancer in men, including prostate cancer, to raise men's awareness of the risks.

Hospital Infection Procedures

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment he has made of control of infection procedures in hospitals in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement on the standards set for such procedures in hospitals in other EU member states. [99892]

Yvette Cooper: We are determined to make sure that the National Health Service tackles the problem of hospital acquired infection. A review of infection control arrangements in all acute NHS Trusts has recently been undertaken by Regional Epidemiologists which will be used to improve services locally as appropriate. The emphasis the Government places on infection control in the NHS is reflected in the National Priorities Guidance 1999-2000 to 2001-02. This sets out the need to ensure that appropriate arrangements for the control of infection are in place. Health Service Circular 1999-049 (Resistance to Antibiotics and other Antimicrobial Agents, issued in March 1999) also addresses the need to strengthen prevention and control of communicable disease and infection control processes. On 22 November the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), launched new risk management and organisational control standards for the NHS including standards for hospital infection control. Compliance with these is the responsibility of chief executives and NHS trust board members.

10 Jan 2000 : Column: 54W

The problem of infection control is a major concern at European level. A Commission resolution was agreed in June this year which cited infection control as an important part of the battle against antibiotic resistance. Within Europe hospital infection control arrangements vary from member state to member state and details are not held centrally.

Breast Cancer

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps he has taken and what discussions he has held, with a view to increasing the percentage of urgent breast cancer referrals that are included within the two week consultation pledge; [100004]

Yvette Cooper: Guidance on the need to refer urgent referrals within 24 hours was issued to primary care leads, health authorities, National Health Service trusts and local medical centres through regional leads in December 1998. This has been augmented by additional guidance and the issue of revised breast cancer referral guidelines sent to all general practitioners in September 1999. This has been supported by action at local and regional levels to establish clear referral criteria and referral pathways so that those patients being referred urgently under the two week standard can be identified quickly and referred appropriately. We will continue to monitor the proportion of urgent referrals received within and outside 24 hours and to work with the professions to enable the maximum number of women to benefit from this high standard of care.

Cervical Smears

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent steps his Department has taken to analyse the potential impact of new technologies in improving the accuracy of diagnosis of cervical smears. [100255]

Yvette Cooper: We are aware of a number of new technologies under development, which are closely monitored by the National Health Service cervical screening programme. For example, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence have been asked to consider the evidence and advise on whether liquid-based cytology would offer worthwhile benefits.

We welcome any new technology that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the cervical screening programme. However, before any technology is introduced we must be sure that it is safe and effective, and that quality standards can be maintained.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for making the Neopath Autopap for cervical screening available in (a) the NHS and (b) Grimsby NHS Trust. [100338]

Yvette Cooper: The Tripath Autopap system (previously Neopath Autopap system) is currently being evaluated by the National Health Service cervical screening programme.

10 Jan 2000 : Column: 55W

We welcome any new technology that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the cervical screening programme. However, before any technology is introduced we must be sure that it is safe and effective, and that quality standards can be maintained.

Mobile Phones

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what date he expects the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones to produce its report. [100269]

Yvette Cooper: The group is expected to report in spring 2000.

Smoking-related Illness

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the estimated cost to the NHS in treating people suffering from illness as a result of smoking in each of the last five years. [100765]

Yvette Cooper: This information is not available on a year by year basis, but a study "Cost Effectiveness of Smoking Cessation Interventions" by the Health Education Authority, in collaboration with the University of York published in 1997 estimated the annual cost to the National Health Service of treating smoking related disease caused by smoking was between £1.4 billion and £1.7 billion for England.

St. John's Wort

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if all products containing St. John's Wort are deemed medicinal by the Medicines Control Agency. [100777]

Yvette Cooper: Products containing the widely used herbal remedy, St. John's Wort are classified as medicinal products by the Medicines Control Agency if they satisfy the definition of a medicinal product in Article 1.2 of Directive 65/65/EEC. The MCA does not deem all products containing St. John's Wort to be medicinal products. However, it does deem any product containing St. John's Wort at therapeutic dosage levels to be a medicinal product, because it may be administered with a view to modifying physiological function in human beings. A herbal remedy containing St. John's Wort may be exempt from licensing if it satisfies section 12 of the Medicines Act 1968.

COMA Inquiry

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the results of the COMA inquiry into fortifying bread with folic acid will be announced. [100822]

Yvette Cooper: The report entitled "Folic acid and the Prevention of Disease" prepared by the Working Group of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy, is expected to be published soon. The report focuses primarily on the role of folic acid in the prevention of neural tube defects.

Cancer Centres

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the designated cancer centre for surgery in each region of England. [102461]

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Yvette Cooper [holding answer 13 December 1999]: The National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, is developing a national approach to the evaluation of cancer services with regions, to ensure that we have a consistent approach nationally to the delivery of cancer care.

There are currently no rigid criteria for the designation or accreditation of cancer centres. Early implementation of the Calman/Hine recommendations reflected the different starting points across the country and allowed an evaluation of services to fit local circumstances.

London Ambulance Service

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many AS1 emergency calls were received by the London Ambulance Service on 26 October; how many AS2 urgent requests for ambulances were received on that date; and what is the (a) average and (b) longest time taken to respond to calls in each category. [102777]

Ms Stuart: The London Ambulance Service received 2,576 AS1 emergency calls and 373 AS2 urgent requests for ambulances on 26 October 1999.

The average time taken to respond to AS1 calls on that date was 9.9 minutes and the longest time was more than 30 minutes.

Information is not collected in this way for AS2 requests. However, the average time of arrival at hospital was four minutes later than the time specified by a general practitioner and the longest time was approximately 21 minutes after the time specified by a GP.


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