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Food Standards Agency

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the countries in which officials of the Food Standards Agency have conducted investigations into the safety of food destined for British markets. [150242]

Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 February 2001]: Primary responsibility for the safety of food rests with the national competent authority of each country, whether a member state of the European Community or a third country. It is the responsibility of each individual country to ensure that food exported to the United Kingdom complies with both national and European Union food safety requirements. The EC, and not the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, has competence for monitoring and, where appropriate, investigating issues of compliance with EU food safety law, both in third countries exporting food to the European market and in member states producing food for trade within the EC.

NHS Computer Systems

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to begin further consortia procurement programmes for IT systems in the NHS before the post- implementation review of the South West Procurement Programme has been completed and published. [153096]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 9 March 2001]: As indicated in the National Health Service information management and technology procurement review (published by the NHS Executive in June 2000), the South Western regional procurement programme needs to have been judged as successful by means of a post-implementation review before this approach can be recommended nationally.

In the meantime, however, individual trusts outside South Western region may use a consortium approach to procurement if they wish to do so, and some trusts are doing so at present.

Blood Donors

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what action he is taking to increase the level of blood donations in each of the next five years; [153566]

Mr. Denham: The National Blood Service (NBS) plans to recruit 420,000 more donors in the financial year 2001 to 2002. Future recruitment of donors will depend on the demands for blood. The NBS target for collection

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is produced annually based on the success of a rolling marketing and communication plan to maximise blood collection.

NBS is working to recruit and retain donors by mailing campaigns and television and radio advertising. A new campaign will be launched later this year. These encourage more frequent donation patterns and NBS research has shown that the "Give Blood" message is successful. Communication with donors continues through a series of initiatives which include the NBS magazine "The Donor", sent to donors twice yearly, contacting donors to remind them of their next donor session and further development the NBS website with plans to include on-line invitations to give blood.

Medical Records

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Health under what circumstances NHS hospitals and trusts may withhold medical records from patients who have requested them; and what recent guidance he has issued to hospitals and trusts on this subject. [153774]

Ms Stuart: Medical records can be withheld from a patient where the record contains information that may cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the patient or any other person or includes confidential information about a third party. Guidance on this issue was issued in 1991 and remains in force.

Waiting Times

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health in which health authorities more than one patient in eight has waited over one year for in-patient treatment, excluding day cases, in the last year. [153966]

Mr. Denham: The health authorities at which more than one in eight patients on the waiting list for an ordinary admission have been waiting for more than 12 months are shown in the table.

Health authority(12)Percentage of patients who had waited 12 months or more
East Surrey14.7
Southampton and South West Hampshire14.2
West Sussex13.4

(12) At 31 December 2000


1 in 8 = 12.5 per cent.

Organ and Tissue Retention

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the Retained Organs Commission will validate the system to be used by the Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals NHS Trust for recording the organs and tissues retained following post mortem. [153948]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 15 March 2001]: The Retained Organs Commission (ROC) expects to receive a recommendation from the South East Regional Office of the National Health Service Executive on the accuracy of the cataloguing of retained organs by the Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals NHS Trust by 30 April 2001, at

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the latest, in accordance with the guidance issued by the commission on 9 March, a copy of which is at

Validation by the ROC of the system used by this trust will depend upon the substance of this recommendation.

Barnet Health Authority

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about waiting lists in the Barnet health authority area. [154739]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 20 March 2001]: The in-patient waiting list at Barnet health authority has fallen from 7,321 at 31 March 1997 to 5,507 at 31 January 2001, (the latest date for which figures are available). This represents a decrease of 25 per cent.

Residential Homes

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what new measures he plans to introduce to reduce the incidence of (a) overuse and mis-use of medicinal drugs, (b) physical abuse, (c) sexual abuse and (d) neglect of residents of homes for the elderly. [154077]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 20 March 2001]: We are reforming the current regulatory arrangements for care homes and nursing homes for all client groups. The Care Standards Act 2000 establishes a new independent body, the National Care Standards Commission, which will regulate all care homes, whether in the private, voluntary or statutory sector, from April 2002. The commission will register and inspect homes according to national minimum standards. These standards will promote better quality of care and prevent abuse of all kinds by grounding practice on the principles of dignity, choice, privacy and respect.

They will guarantee residents access to an effective complaints procedure and ensure that residents are cared for by trustworthy, competent and reliable staff, who have been properly trained for this difficult and sensitive job.

National minimum standards for care homes for older people were published on 2 March 2001. We intend to publish standards for other client groups in homes soon.

In addition, the Department launched guidance titled 'No Secrets' on 20 March 2000, under Section 7 of the Local Authority Services Act 1970. 'No Secrets' deals with developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse.

All prescribing for older people, including those in residential and nursing home care, should be undertaken and monitored carefully by the doctor responsible. The Department published advice in 1998 on prescribing in residential and nursing homes. The National Service Framework for Older People will contribute to improving the care of older people with dementia by setting national standards for health and social care services.

British Fluoridation Society

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what purposes grants are paid to the British Fluoridation Society Ltd. [152905]

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Mr. Denham [holding answer 20 March 2001]: Grants are paid to enable the British Fluoridation Society to provide information to health authorities, water undertakers and the general public on technical aspects of water fluoridation projects and the effects of fluoridation on levels of dental decay and overall health.

Bed Blockers

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department collects weekly figures on the numbers of bed blockers; if he will publish the figures; and how many bed blockers there were on (a) 1 March 2001, (b) 1 February 2001, (c) 1 January 2001, (d) 1 December 2000 and (e) 1 November 2000. [153973]

Mr. Denham: The information is not available for the dates requested. The information on bed blockers is available through Quarterly Monitoring Returns, which are available in the Library.

Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease

Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about clusters of cases of Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. [155227]

Yvette Cooper: Ninety-seven 'definite' and 'probable' cases of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) have been identified to date. A number of geographically associated case groupings is under investigation, but only one such grouping has so far been identified by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) in July 2000 as being unlikely to have occurred by chance. That grouping of cases occurred in an area in Leicestershire near Queniborough. A subsequent investigation by Leicestershire health authority into these cases has been undertaken and the results are being announced in a report published today. A copy is being placed in the Library. The main conclusion from the investigation is that there is a strong association between these cases and cross-contamination of carcase meat with cattle brain material which occurred at a number of local butchers' premises during the 1980s.

Controls on specified risk material (SRM) have, since 1989, required brains of cattle over six months old to be removed and disposed of under controlled conditions. It has been illegal since then for them to be used for human consumption. And, since 1996, it has been a legal requirement for the whole head of cattle over six months old to be disposed of in the slaughterhouse as SRM under the supervision of the Meat Hygiene Service.

Scientific advisers and health experts, including SEAC, will be looking very carefully at the results of the study, to assess the implications for our wider understanding of vCJD.

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