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Illegal Food Imports

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to introduce public notification of proscribed foodstuffs at ports of entry into the United Kingdom. [52986]

Yvette Cooper: I am advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that existing controls under European Union harmonised legislation require prior notification to the enforcement authorities of imports of products of animal origin from third countries. Food which is not of animal origin entering the United Kingdom from third countries is not generally subject to prior notification. Food safety checks are however made under Great Britain's Imported Food Regulations 1997 and their equivalent in Northern Ireland on the basis of risk assessment by local food authorities at the point of entry

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to the UK. Local authorities can refuse entry or arrange destruction of foods that do not meet the UK's requirements. Food coming to the UK from other EU Member States is in free circulation within the EU and is not subject to routine checks at UK ports.

The Board of the FSA has asked its officials to review the import controls on food which is not of animal origin including the question of prior notification. In doing so, the FSA will take account of the development of EU proposals to establish a Community framework for official controls on food and animal feed which may include a proposal for pre-notification of imports of food of non animal origin.

NHS Cancer Plan

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what consultations he undertook before adopting the two week wait target for cancer diagnosis in the NHS Cancer Plan. [53417]

Yvette Cooper: The White Paper "The new NHS—Modern, Dependable" published in December 1997 set the cancer specific waiting time standard that everyone with suspected cancer will be able to see a specialist within two weeks of their general practitioner (GP) deciding that they need to be seen urgently and requesting an appointment. These arrangements were guaranteed for everyone with suspected breast cancer from April 1999 and for all other suspected cancers from 2000 and was based on evidence that delays in access to cancer services is a factor in poor cancer survival rates.

To support implementation of the standard, the Department set up a steering group of medical professionals, chaired by Professor Mike Richards. This steering group developed guidance for GPs to enable them to identify the symptoms and indications of cancer for early referral of patients with suspected cancer to a specialist.

Respiratory Syncitial Virus

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many cases of respiratory syncitial virus requiring hospital admission there have been in the last three years in the Portsmouth Health Authority, broken down by age; and if he will make a statement; [53694] (2) what estimate he has made of the cost of treating infants suffering from respiratory syncitial virus infection in terms of (a) hospital stays and (b) intensive care unit stays in the Portsmouth Primary Care Trust; and if he will make a statement. [53695]

Yvette Cooper: Figures for respiratory diseases with a subsidiary classification of respiratory syncitial virus for patients resident in the Portsmouth health authority area were very small and cannot be released for reasons of patient confidentiality. The table below contains a count of all admissions to National Health Service hospitals in England for patients resident in the south-east region.

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0–4Over 4Total


1. These figures do not represent the number of patients as a person may be admitted more than once during the year

2. Data in this table are adjusted for both coverage and unknown/invalid clinical data, except for 2000–01 which are not yet adjusted for shortfalls.


Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), Department of Health

Costs associated with admission vary significantly with severe cases requiring paediatric intensive care, assisted ventilation and specialised interventions. Information on the cost of these admissions is not collected centrally.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment he has made of the need for guidance to be issued to parents about the risk to premature babies of respiratory syncitial virus; and if he will make a statement. [53693]

Yvette Cooper: Parents of premature babies that are at risk from respiratory syncitial virus infection receive guidance from their doctor before leaving hospital. General written guidance is also provided to parents before they take their baby home, on the recognition of illness, the awareness of the risks of infection in babies and contact points in the event their child appears to be unwell.

The national service framework for children is a forthcoming comprehensive opportunity to review what guidance and information is given to parents, and parents to be, about the health of their children.

Direct Payments Scheme

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information his Department collates on the rate of take up of direct payments under the direct payments scheme in each local authority area. [53766]

Jacqui Smith: Data are collected annually from councils on the number of people receiving direct payments and the gross expenditure on those payments. The Social Services Inspectorate has obtained further information through the performance monitoring of local councils.

Kidderminster Hospital

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will restore Kidderminster Hospital's status. [53882]

Yvette Cooper: A range of services, for a variety of patients, remain and continue to be developed at Kidderminster.

In May last year my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, announced that the Government would establish an independent clinical review of future elective services at Kidderminster Hospital. The review resulted from the new opportunity presented by the planned increase in elective surgery arising from implementation of the NHS Plan. The review recommended that the hospital should carry out a wider variety of common operations, including

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tonsillectomies, gall bladder operations and more procedures on eyes, and ear, nose and throat surgery. We agreed with these conclusions and acted upon them.

In addition, a £13 million Ambulatory Care Centre is being developed at Kidderminster Hospital which due to be completed in 2003, and Worcestershire's new £87 million acute hospital opened in April 2002 incorporating state of the art facilities benefiting patients from across Worcestershire and beyond.

Hospital-acquired Infection

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have died as a result of hospital-acquired infection in (a) the most recent year for which figures are available and (b) each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [54154]

Yvette Cooper: There are no centrally held statistics on deaths caused by healthcare acquired infections (HAI), including Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

MRSA infection can take many forms, from trivial skin infection to pneumonia or septicaemia. Often the causative micro-organism is not specified on the death certificate. MRSA does not have a distinct code within the revision of the International Classification of Diseases used for encoding death registration data at the Office for National Statistics.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the cost to the NHS of hospital-acquired infection in (a) each of the last five years and (b) the most recent year for which figures are available. [54160]

Yvette Cooper: Tackling hospital acquired infection (HAI) underpins the priorities in the NHS plan and a number of initiatives are underway to reduce HAI. However, costs of activity to prevent HAI are impossible to assess because much of this activity is a fundamental part of the work of healthcare staff.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what monitoring is undertaken by his Department of National Health Service trusts' infection control policies; and if he will make a statement. [54116]

Yvette Cooper: New standards (controls assurance) on infection control were issued in 1999 (and updated in 2001). We have asked the Commission for Health Improvement to independently review and monitor compliance with the national infection control standard for acute trusts during their routine clinical governance reviews. Monitoring arrangements will be covered in the targeted action plan for healthcare associated infections that will be produced later this year as part of "Getting ahead of the curve" our strategy to combat infectious disease.

Genetic Testing Kits

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the health consequences of the sale of genetic testing kits to the public; [54203] (2) what plans he has to regulate the sale of genetic testing kits; [54205]

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(3) what assessment has been made of the voluntary system of regulation for commercially available genetic testing kits. [54204]

Yvette Cooper: Genetic testing kits that are placed on the market and fall within the definition of an in vitro diagnostic medical device (IVD) will be regulated by the IVD Regulations (SI2000 No 1315) which came into force on 7 June 2000 and has a transition period until 7 December 2003.

The Department has published two voluntary codes of practice and guidance for genetic tests being sold directly to the public. These set out broad requirements in areas such as: peer-reviewed evidence of value, accreditation and quality assurance in testing laboratories, consent, confidentiality, sample and information storage, and customer information.

Under the "Code of Practice and Guidance on Human Genetic Testing Services Supplied Direct to the Public" (September 1997) suppliers notify the human genetics commission (HGC) of their proposed service and HGC publishes a statement of conformance with the Code.

In addition, those supplying genetic paternity testing services are expected to comply with the "Code of Practice and Guidance on Genetic Paternity Testing Services" (March 2001). All Government and public bodies commissioning paternity testing services are expected, so far as is practical, to ensure that those supplying services comply with this Code.

The HGC is the Government's strategic advisory body on how new developments in human genetics will impact on people and on health care, with a particular focus on social and ethical aspects. We have asked the HGC to conduct a thorough review of the whole issue of genetic testing services offered directly to the public, including the voluntary system of regulation, and to report with their recommendations by the end of this year.

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