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7 Nov 2002 : Column 500W—continued


GP Lists

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the average general practitioner list in Worthing West. [74766]

Ms Blears: The information requested is not available centrally.

NHS Staff (Confidentiality)

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to publish his Department's new code of practice on confidentiality and consent for people working in the National Health Service. [73753]

Mr. Hutton: ''Confidentiality: A Code of Practice for NHS Staff'' is expected to be published in spring 2003 following a public consultation exercise running from 22 October 2002 to 31 January 2003.


Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many representations he has received in the past 12 months about obesity matters from (a) hon. and right hon. Members, (b) organisations and (c) members of the public. [74463]

Ms Blears: Over the past year the Department has received 31 Parliamentary Questions, 34 letters from hon. and right hon. Members, and 15 letters from organisations and the general public directly concerning obesity matters.

NHS Lists

Mr. Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the average NHS patient list size for (a) general practitioners and (b) dental practitioners, broken down by each primary care trust in England. [74257]

Mr. Hutton: The information requested has been placed in the Library.


Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his Department is doing to improve its performance in providing replies to (a) letters and (b) questions from hon. Members. [74867]

Ms Blears: Following the events and review of procedures described in the reply that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave my hon. Friend the

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Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) on 25 March 2002 Official Report, column 751W, we have made many improvements to our parliamentary unit, including additional staff, better accommodation, setting up a new electronic tracking system, and enhanced monitoring and oversight of work flows and working practices. We envisage that these measures will lead to faster response times in the Department's handling of Members' questions.

Change programmes are being established in all Government Departments, designed to build capacity for high performance. The expectation is that departments will achieve a step change in performance in line with the four principles set out in Reforming Our Public Services: Principles into Practice, published in March 2002.

In terms of correspondence, a customer service project has been set up under the Department's change programme with the following objectives:

This project will give further impetus to improving performance in the timeliness and quality of responses to correspondence.

PSA Testing

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what processes are in place to inform men that they can ask their general practitioner about the PSA test and the issues that surround it. [75745]

Ms Blears: Evidence-based primary care resource packs were sent to all general practitioners (GPs) in England in September 2002, meeting a National Health Service Cancer Plan commitment to ensure that all men considering a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test are given information concerning the benefits, limitations and risks associated with receiving a test.

The packs are primarily aimed at GPs and practice nurses to use in counselling men with no symptoms who are worried about prostate cancer. A leaflet is available for men to take home to read in their own time, to enable them to make an informed choice on whether or not to have a PSA test. If they do decide to go ahead with the test, they can have it free on the NHS.

Nuclear Installations

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning the health implications of working and living in the vicinity of a nuclear power station. [75793]

Ms Blears: Since the mid 1980s the Department has received many representations about the possible health effects of nuclear installations in the United Kingdom.

The committee on medical aspects of radiation in the environment (COMARE) was established in November 1985 in response to the final recommendation of the report of the independent advisory group chaired by Sir

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Douglas Black. Its remit is to look at the possible health effects of all source of radiation whether natural or man made, including radioactive materials discharged from nuclear installations. The committee's terms of reference are ''to assess and advise Government and the Devolved Administrations on the health effects of natural and man-made radiation in the environment and to assess the adequacy of the available data and the need for further research''. COMARE has now published seven reports and has also published several statements into allegations of health effects around nuclear installations. The committee has also made many recommendations for further investigations and examines these studies as they become available. Details of the committee's reports can be found on its web site at

Cancer Care

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that every cancer patient within the NHS receives treatment from surgeons and physicians who are specialists in their field; and by when he expects this target to be met. [75774]

Ms Blears: All doctors must work within the limits of their professional competence, as required by General Medical Council (GMC) guidance, Good Medical Practice. Doctors should not therefore be given or take on responsibility for patients if they are not competent to do so. This is to ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care and have the best chances of making a full recovery.

The National Health Service in England employs doctors in training grades who are not yet qualified to work independently and staff grade doctors, some of whom are trained specialists. NHS Consultants supervise the work of all of these doctors and are responsible for the care patients receive. Consultants are all trained specialists included on the Specialist Register held by the GMC.

The Department and more recently the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), has produced Improving Outcomes Guidance (IOG) on how services should be organised for specific types of cancer. The guidance includes recommendations on areas including the establishment of specialist multidisciplinary teams. Targets for the implementation of IOG form part of the priorities and planning framework.

The NHS Cancer Plan set out a target of providing nearly 1,000 extra cancer specialists by 2006. The NHS is on track to meet this target with an extra 500 cancer consultants between 1999 and 2002.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning delays in obtaining NICE guidance on cancer treatments. [75799]

Ms Blears: The Department has received numerous letters and other representations regarding delays in obtaining guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) on cancer treatments.

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The appraisal process, from referral to completion, has been designed to allow the full participation of patients, clinicians, companies and stakeholders. NICE is fully aware of the need to ensure that the process is as streamlined as possible, without losing any of the important safeguards it contains, in order to publish guidance soon after the treatments are launched.

It is not acceptable for funding authorities to refuse to fund a newly licensed treatment just because it is awaiting appraisal by NICE. Decisions on funding should be based on local consideration of the available evidence when NICE appraisals are awaited.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of non-listed cancer patients require (a) diagnostic X-ray examinations, (b) ultrasound investigations for gynaecological and obstetric problems, (c) mammograms for breast cancer and (d) CT scans; and what plans he has to introduce these patients to the national cancer waiting lists published by his Department. [75766]

Ms Blears: Data are not collected centrally on diagnostic tests for cancer patients. The National Health Service Cancer Plan set out waiting time targets for cancer. These targets aim to reduce the amount of time patients have to wait from urgent referral to beginning treatment, which will include the diagnostic phase, and from diagnosis of cancer to first treatment. We have no plans to include waiting times for individual diagnostic tests in cancer waiting times monitoring.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures are in place to ensure uniform reporting standards in cancer care; and if he will make a statement on cancer care data reporting standards. [78929]

Ms Blears: Centrally collected information on cancer services is limited to the collection of data to monitor the waiting times targets in the NHS Cancer Plan and the collection of data on coverage for the National Health Service screening services.

All of the definitions relating to these processes are nationally standardised and are made available in advance to enable local organisations to ensure that all data are formatted to the required standard.

The Manual of Cancer Service Standards, published 2 January 2001, provides a framework to enable local cancer networks to assess the quality of services they provide.

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what mechanisms he has in place to ensure the efficacy of cancer care data gathering measures. [78927]

Ms Blears: Data on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancer are gathered locally, in accordance with data definitions which have been widely consulted on and agreed. The data definitions are published on the NHS Information Authority website, in dataset change notices (DSCNs). The National Health Service is responsible for ensuring the efficacy of the data.

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