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Prostate Cancer

11. Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling): What recent research he has commissioned into the (a) causes of and (b) treatment for prostate cancer. [127520]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper): The Government recently announced an extra £1 million for prostate cancer research this year. Research has now been commissioned on the identification, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Further work will be considered in the light of the report from an expert review group.

Mr. Coaker: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Many people will be very pleased that an extra £1 million has been announced for prostate cancer research and treatment. Will she make sure that as many resources as possible go into research and treatment, because it is of growing concern that we seem to have an ever-increasing number of men suffering from prostate cancer? There has been very little research into prostate cancer so far, and there is very little clarity about the treatment that should be available. We have a long way to go. It is one of the greatest public health issues confronting this country now, and it will continue to confront us over the next few years.

Yvette Cooper: I agree with my hon. Friend. Historically, the level of funding for research into prostate cancer has been too low, given how little we know about the disease and how many men die from it each year. That is exactly why we have put the extra £1 million into new research this year. It is also why we are working with other funders, with the major charities, the Medical Research Council and the Cancer Research Funders Forum, and have asked them as their first project to look into prostate cancer research.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent): The announcement is extremely welcome. Prostate cancer is a very large killer of men in our society. Will the Minister also bear in mind the fact that in the treatment of prostate cancer, about which so little is known, a large number of different specialists are frequently required to treat one patient? At present the level of understanding among general practitioners is not very high. Will she carefully

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examine the idea of having one named specialist in charge of each patient when he is diagnosed as having prostate cancer?

Yvette Cooper: We are commissioning guidance on improving outcomes for prostate cancer as part of the work commissioned by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. It is the first of the extra four cancer sites being worked on now. That is exactly the issue that we need to look at, building on the work of Calman Hine.

Whittington Hospital

12. Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): What estimate he has made of the long-term cost of private finance initiative funding of the Whittington hospital. [127521]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham): The current project at the Whittington should have a full-life net present cost of around £100 million. This is for the new building, its maintenance and operation over 30 years at today's prices, regardless of how the project is funded. Before the go-ahead is given to a PFI option, it will need to demonstrate that it delivers better value for money than a publicly funded alternative.

Mr. Corbyn: Will the Minister look very carefully at that and any other case of PFI funding of new buildings and consider, first, the long-term cost to local health services incurred by using private finance rather than public finance for new buildings; secondly, the likely increase in the number of private patients in the hospital to increase the income stream to pay the debts resulting from the PFI; and, thirdly, the implications for outlying health facilities in the district, given that experience of previous PFI initiatives tells us that outlying facilities are often closed and fewer beds are available in PFI-constructed hospitals than in publicly funded hospitals? There is great demand for new buildings in the NHS, but does the Minister accept that we must ensure that they are publicly owned and publicly funded?

Mr. Denham: There is certainly a great demand for new hospitals and hospital buildings, which is why I am pleased that the past three years have seen the biggest hospital building programme in the history of the NHS get under way. However, with respect, my hon. Friend is wrong on all counts. There is no evidence that the PFI funding route leads to reduced bed numbers; the whole point of the procedure is that the number of beds required in the local health economy is determined before the decision is made on whether a hospital will be publicly or privately financed. We shall ensure that hospitals planned in future, whether PFI or public sector financed, take full account of the conclusions of the national beds inquiry, which showed that, under the previous Administration, the number of hospital beds was cut far too far.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): Can the Minister tell us what will be the annual rate of return to private investors who put money into the Whittington hospital?

Mr. Denham: That is a matter for the private investors. What matters to the NHS is to make sure that good value

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for money is obtained. Under a PFI scheme, the cost of the PFI route is compared with the cost of the public sector route. Experience so far tells us not only that every single PFI scheme that has gone ahead offers better value for money than the public sector alternative, but that PFI schemes are delivered ahead of schedule, instead of overrunning. On hearing Conservative Members, one might gain the impression that they are opposed to PFI. In reality, the Conservative Government spent tens of millions of pounds on consultants but did not get a single PFI hospital built, whereas the Labour Government have used PFI to start the biggest hospital-building programme in the history of the NHS--hospitals like the one in Carlisle are already open and accepting patients.

Hygiene (NHS Hospitals)

13. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): If he will set minimum cleanliness and hygiene standards in NHS trust hospitals and ensure that these are policed. [127522]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): Chief executives are responsible for high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals. Standards for hospital cleanliness and infection control will be subject to independent inspections by the Commission for Health Improvement and the Audit Commission. NHS Estates has recently distributed guidance on cleanliness to all NHS trusts. The national plan will detail how we can take that forward.

Dr. Cable: Does the Minister accept that, even in hospitals with a high degree of clinical competence, narrowly defined, there are potential problems of poor hygiene leading to cross-infection? Does he also accept that that can be caused by a combination of private contractors cutting corners, trust managers trying to save money, and the lack of a proper supervisory system involving nurses, as there used to be under the matron system of old? Would not the principles he describes be strengthened by a system of spot checks, carried out by a national inspectorate and backed up by sanctions against offending contractors and hospitals?

Mr. Hutton: The hon. Gentleman is obviously right to say that the causes of those problems can be numerous and that a variety of individuals and agencies may be responsible. We regard it as a priority that hygiene standards should be maintained and hospitals should be clean and free from the ever-present risk of infection. It is interesting to note that, whereas the Government are prepared to act on these matters, the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), at a recent conference in Glasgow, criticised Ministers for taking action to improve hospital cleanliness--and, as usual, got himself into something of a mess. I have no doubt that the public want us to ensure that their hospitals are clean and hygienic.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Does the Minister agree that the Government should be as responsible for high standards of cleanliness and hygiene as they are for other services that the national health service must provide? For that reason alone, does he agree that the Commission for Health Improvement should be

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responsible for delivering cleanliness and hygiene in the private and the public sectors to ensure that the same standards apply in both?

Mr. Hutton: I am not entirely sure that that is the position the Conservative party adopted during the passage of the Care Standards Bill. Perhaps the hon. Lady needs to have a conversation with her Front-Bench colleagues about that. It is important to take effective action to improve standards of cleanliness and hygiene. We are taking that action.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): I believe that there is a real problem. My hon. Friend knows that I have spent time in many hospitals over the past 15 years. It has often struck me that the standard of cleanliness in the toilets of many hospitals worries patients and their visitors. Should there not be a major effort to ensure that the necessary standards are achieved?

Mr. Hutton: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. He has much experience of such issues, and I am glad that he looks as well as he does today. We are going to take action to make sure that the issues that he raised are properly addressed. As I said earlier, the national plan, which we shall publish later this summer, will explain the way in which we can take that work forward.

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