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7 Jan 2003 : Column 188W—continued

Electronic Patient Records

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when his Department plans to issue initial applications for tenders to supply the NHS with smart card technology for personal medical records. [88757]

Mr. Lammy: The Department has no current plans to invite tenders for smart card technology for personal medical records.

The Department is considering the role smart card and other technologies will play in allowing patients easier access to their health records in the context of the integrated care records services programme.

Emergency Admissions

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of admissions to accident and emergency units have to wait more than four hours for treatment. [88742]

Mr. Lammy : The Department collects and publishes information quarterly on total time in accident and emergency and waits for admission to a bed via A&E. The data for the period July-September 2002 were published on 20 December 2002 and are available from

The published data show that between July and September 77 per cent. of patients spent four hours or less in A&E from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. In the same period 90 per cent. of patients admitted as emergencies via A&E were found a bed within four hours of a decision to admit.

Emergency Readmissions

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list (a) the number and (b) the rate of emergency psychiatric readmissions in each of the last five years. [88806]

Jacqui Smith: The number and rate of emergency psychiatric re-admissions in each of the last five years are shown in the following table.

Number of emergency psychiatric re-admissions of patients aged 16–64 within 90 days of discharge from the care of a psychiatric specialist as a percentage of such discharges

1997–98 total(30)1998–99 total(30)1999–2000 total(30)2000–01 total(30)2001–02 total(31)
Number of re-admissions within 90 days16,38415,46114,87514,06813,306
Total number of discharges114,946113,585114,616110,312104,367
Re-admission rate (percentage)14.313.613.012.812.7


(30) Common Information Core, now known as the

(31) Service and Financial Framework Return (SaFFR), end of financial year forecast outturn (FOT) position, apart from 1997–98 where only activity for each quarter was collected, so figures represent the sum of all four quarters.

Feeding Patients (Guidance)

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance nursing staff in acute hospitals receive about feeding patients unable to feed themselves; and how many complaints the NHS has received in the past 12 months about patients being left to feed themselves and being unable to do so. [88759]

Mr. Lammy: 'The Essence of Care', a tool to promote best practice in eight fundamental aspects of patient care, including food and nutrition, was published by the Department of Health in February 2001. It comprises best practice benchmarks to be used as a tool to help improve the quality of care provided, and includes a standard concerned with assisting patients to eat and drink.

Data on the number of National Health Service complaints made each year is set out in the Department of Health publication 'Handling complaints: monitoring the NHS complaints procedures.' Due to the diverse range of issues for which complaints may be made under

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the NHS complaints procedures, it is not possible to provide information on the number of complaints requested.

Five-a-day Initiative

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much it has cost to introduce the five-a-day nutritional logo; and which outside bodies were involved in the creative process. [86372]

Ms Blears [holding answer 9 December 2002]: The logo is due to be introduced to consumers in Spring 2003. The creative work to develop the logo cost #40,000 and was carried out by Identica.

The logo has been developed through extensive research and consultation with the food industry, consumers, and health, education and voluntary organisations. This work has also contributed to the development of the five-a-day programme as a whole, to improve awareness of and access to fruit and vegetables. The research and consultation has cost #50,000.

Food Safety

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent advice he has received from the Food Standards Agency on the safety of eating meat from animals which have been vaccinated against foot and mouth disease. [88994]

Ms Blears: The Food Standards Agency has advised that there are no health concerns for consumers from eating meat, milk or other produce from animals vaccinated with any of the foot and mouth disease vaccines that are being considered for possible future use in the United Kingdom. The vaccine does not contain live virus and hence is not infectious. All of the other ingredients in the vaccine are commonly used substances that are known to be safe.

Frozen Embryos

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has to give women greater rights in respect of the use of their frozen embryos; and if he will make a statement. [83563]

Ms Blears: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 provides that the consent of both the man and woman whose gametes are used to create an embryo through in vitro fertilisation is needed for the storage and use of the embryo. This recognises the interest that both parties have in the embryo. The Government have no plans to change this.

Genetic Lifestyle Tests

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is on the sale of genetic lifestyle tests by private companies in the UK; and what his policy is on the sale of self-administered osteoporosis testing kits. [87526]

Ms Blears: 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

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evidence of value, accreditation and quality assurance in testing laboratories, consent, confidentiality, sample and information storage, and customer information.

The Human Genetics Commission is conducting a review of genetic testing services supplied direct to the public and plans to publish its report and recommendations to Ministers early in 2003.

Anyone concerned about the risk of osteoporosis should seek advice from his or her general practitioner. Those at high risk of developing this disease can be easily identified and offered appropriate treatment. Others can be given simple lifestyle advice about prevention.

In vitro diagnostic medical devices such as osteoporosis testing kits are regulated by the In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices (IVD) Directive (98/79/EC) which has been transposed into United Kingdom law by Medical Devices Regulation (SI2002 No 618).

Health Protection Agency

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on the future of the Public Health Laboratory Service; [86029]

Ms Blears: The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) and the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) are both affected by our proposals to create a unified Health Protection Agency (HPA) which will be able to provide more effective support for health protection and health emergency planning.

Having considered responses to XHealth Protection: A Consultation Document on Creating a Health Protection Agency", published in June 2002, we aim to establish the HPA as a non-departmental public body from 1 April 2004, subject to legislative time being available. At that stage, the agency would take responsibility for most of the functions currently performed by the NRPB.

As an interim step towards this, we intend to establish a special health authority, also to be called the Health Protection Agency, from 1 April 2003. This special health authority would be responsible for functions under the NHS Act which are to be given to the new agency.

On these proposals, the NRPB would, on the establishment of the HPA as a non-departmental public body, become a body with responsibilities to the Scottish Executive only. The Scottish Executive is currently consulting on future health protection arrangements in Scotland.

The PHLS would remain in existence until primary legislation is changed. From 1 April 2003, we intend that it will be responsible for the production of media for microbiology laboratories, following the transfer of its other current functions to the proposed new special health authority and other national health service bodies in England and Wales.

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Copies of letters of 15 November 2002 to the chairs of the NRPB, the PHLS Board and the Microbiological Research Authority, which provide further details, have been placed in the Library.

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