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Cancer Research

2. Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North): What funding he is committing over the next three years to research into the cancers specific to men. [131848]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper): Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

The most common male cancer is prostate cancer, which kills about 8,500 men each year. The Government are concerned to cut deaths from prostate cancer, which is why we are increasing the Department's directly commissioned research into it by an extra £1 million each year over the next three years, to bring it up to £4.2 million.

Ms Perham: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Speaker. I also welcome the Minister's boost for prostate cancer funds. Will she join me in applauding the achievement of my constituent Colin Osborne, whose Orchid appeal in respect of male cancers has raised £6 million in three years? Will she also recognise the work of the men's health forum, which is also campaigning for increased resources for male cancers? Does she agree, however, that there is much more to be done to increase awareness of male cancers, and of men's health issues in general?

Yvette Cooper: I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend's constituent on his work in raising awareness of

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male cancers, but I also congratulate her on her own work in raising awareness, and raising funds for future research as well.

We agree that there is more to be done. Under the last Government, only £98,000 was spent by the Department of Health on research into prostate cancer in 1996-97. That is why it is so important for us to work with other funders, with the charities and with the Medical Research Council to increase investment in prostate cancer research.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): May I be--possibly--the last to congratulate you on your post, Mr. Speaker, and, perhaps appropriately, wish you the health to enjoy your time in office?

I wonder whether the Minister agrees with the Government's cancer tsar, who was quoted in Nursing Times as saying that

On the day that the Government announced £1 million for prostate cancer research, they gave an extra £47 million to the dome. What message does the Minister think that sends about the Government's sense of priorities?

Yvette Cooper: We believe that it is up to individual men to make their own choices about whether to have a prostate-specific antigen test. That is why we are developing an informed-choice programme, to provide men with all the information that they need to make their own decisions about whether to have the test.

As for cancer research funding, the hon. Gentleman's party's record is appalling. By 2003, spending on cancer research directly commissioned by the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council will be £73 million. In 1995-96, it was just £25 million. We have said that we will increase investment in cancer by £500 million. The hon. Gentleman has said that he will increase the subsidy to private health insurance by £500 million. Which does he think is the priority of the British people?

Nurses (Kidderminster)

3. Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): How many nurses previously employed at Kidderminster district general hospital have accepted alternative employment within the NHS in the last two years. [131849]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Gisela Stuart): I add my congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

Neither the Department of Health nor the national health service collects firm details of the future employment intentions of staff. However, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS trust reports that from 1 October 1998 to 30 September 2000 its records indicate that 41 qualified nurses previously employed at Kidderminster general hospital accepted alternative employment in the NHS in Worcestershire.

Mr. Gill: I must say that I am rather disappointed by that reply. I am sure that the Minister will be as concerned

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as I was to learn that the chairman of Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS trust has said, "We must attract more nurses and retain them."

When new Labour was in opposition, it lost no opportunity to criticise the Conservative Government in terms of the national health service. Now, however, the Prime Minister says that the Government failed to estimate accurately the scale of the problems of the NHS. That is the reason why there are not enough doctors, nurses and dentists--

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech.

Mr. Gill rose--

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman will not get away with making a speech. He had an opportunity to put a question, and that is the end of it. Does the Minister wish to reply?

Ms Stuart: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) will be delighted to learn that Kidderminster hospital has a full complement of nursing staff. In addition, unlike the previous Government, who cut nursing training places consistently--between 1992 and 1994, the number went down to some 13,000--we have not just increased nursing training places but we have brought back some 5,000 nurses. Furthermore, unlike the Tory Front-Bench health team, we regard women, who form a large part of the nurses who return, as being 100 per cent. members of the work force, not as being worth only 80 per cent.

Single Currency

4. Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): What administrative impact the national changeover plan has had on NHS trusts. [131850]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham): As set out in the second outline national changeover plan published in March, the NHS has carried out a measure of pre-planning for the possibility of UK entry into the single currency. This was carried out by existing staff from within current running cost budgets. Resources have not been diverted from patient care.

Dr. Lewis: Is not that an extraordinary answer, when it has been estimated that the cost to the NHS of the national changeover plan will total between £75 million and £95 million? That is four times the cost of the new community hospital that is being built to service New Forest. How does the Minister feel about sacrificing four community hospitals to the Government's obsession with the single European currency?

Mr. Denham: Those Opposition Members who are so fanatically opposed to anything European that they are even further to the right than those on the Opposition Front Bench are in the habit of quoting wild figures, exaggerations and unfounded claims about this matter, like many others.

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I quote from the press statement put out by Buckinghamshire health authority on 9 October this year. It states:

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): I wish you all the best, Mr. Speaker, in your new role.

Despite efforts by the NHS executive to stifle our inquiry into the changeover costs by health authority, we have obtained figures. One of the examples is Buckinghamshire health authority--I am glad that that example has been cited. The changeover plan will cost Buckinghamshire health authority £500,000 and 13,000 staff-days. Does the Minister support that use of public money which could otherwise be used for patient care?

Mr. Denham: It is outrageous for the Opposition to suggest that such figures have been diverted from patient care, when, as I made clear by quoting from the statement issued by Buckinghamshire health authority, that is not the case. That health authority refers to costs of several hundreds of pounds, not the £433,000 previously quoted in the press. The Opposition should not peddle figures that are simply not true. I am one of those who, unlike the Opposition, believe that at the right time the British people should have the choice as to whether we join the euro, and it is obviously right that a modest amount of sensible planning to anticipate what a change would involve should be undertaken.

Occupational Therapists

5. Helen Jones (Warrington, North): What steps are being taken to recruit more occupational therapists for the NHS; and if he will make a statement. [131851]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): Qualified occupational therapists increased by 1,000 between September 1997 and September 1999. The NHS plan will see a further 6,500 more therapists and other health professionals by 2004. The Department's recruitment and retention strategy includes introducing more flexible and family-friendly employment conditions, increasing training commissions, attracting former staff back to the NHS, and encouraging flexible retirement.

Helen Jones: I add my congratulations to those that you have already received, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister's reply was encouraging, but does he agree that developing new ways of working is vital if we are to recruit and retain more occupational therapists in the NHS, especially as many are women with families? What is he doing to promote that? Will he join me in congratulating Warrington hospital, Warrington Community NHS trust and our local primary care groups, which have recently agreed to review together all their therapy and rehabilitation services, not only to deliver a better service to the patient but to make better use of the skills of the staff? Is not that the way in which we should progress?

Mr. Hutton: I agree strongly with my hon. Friend. She and the House will know that my right hon. Friend the

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Secretary of State recently announced a major new investment to ensure that, in future, the NHS provides effective child-care facilities for NHS staff. That would be a major contribution to ensuring that we attract large numbers of extra therapists into the NHS. My hon. Friend will know from discussions with her health authority and her trust the strong and important role that occupational therapists will play in ensuring that the new £900 million investment in intermediate care services, especially for older people, constitutes effective intervention and effective investment.

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon): While I welcome the Government's commitment to recruiting more occupational therapists, especially in view of the current 20 per cent. shortfall, what steps will they take to ensure that they do not lose occupational therapists? There is a particular problem with pay, which lags behind even that for other NHS professionals. Will the Government take steps on that, on in-service training, which is underfunded in comparison with other NHS profession, and on career development? Occupational therapists do not have the same opportunities as doctors, nurses and other health professionals to move into management in the health service or in social services.

Mr. Hutton: I am grateful for the qualified support that the hon. Gentleman expressed for what we are trying to do. He is right to say that we need to provide a more attractive career structure for occupational therapists and other NHS professionals. That is why, for example, consultant therapists will work in the NHS in future. That constitutes an extra career grade and is an important development.

However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that we must be realistic about the matter. We have an ambitious plan to increase the number of therapists in the NHS. I am not sure about the vacancy rate to which he referred; I think that the information is from the College of Occupational Therapists. I am not sure about the data on which it was based. As my right hon. Friend said, recruitment problems relate to the growing capacity of the NHS. Trusts and hospitals around the country are actively trying to recruit more occupational therapists and other members of professions allied to medicine. The problem is associated with the growth of the NHS, but we will get there, and address the issues that the hon. Gentleman raised.

Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

Earlier this year, I attended an open day at Plymouth Derriford hospital for young school students from Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall to see the good work that occupational therapists do. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the occupational therapists on that initiative? What message does he have for young people who are currently considering entering the profession?

Mr. Hutton: That is a tricky one. I support my hon. Friend's comments and her actions in her constituency to support the expansion in the NHS. I would tell young people in her constituency and everywhere else that the future of the NHS is optimistic and positive as long as Labour is in government. I could not say the same if there was a change of Government, given the Conservative

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party's record and the legacy that we inherited from it. Under us, the NHS has a positive future; under the Conservatives, it does not.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): May I also congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your elevation?

The Minister should not only consider the recruitment of occupational therapists but that of complementary therapists. Does he know that, under the primary care group system, many areas do not engage homeopaths and herbal therapists, as they used to do? Will he look into that matter?

Mr. Hutton: I shall look into the matter. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman might like to stand on this side of the House when he asks questions about complementary therapy to see the expressions that they attract from the Conservative Front Bench. I know that the hon. Gentleman has a long-standing interest in the issue and I shall look into the anxieties that he raised.

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