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14 Jan 2003 : Column 543—continued

King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst

14. Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): What representations he has received about the impending closure of King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst. [90202]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jacqui Smith): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, other Ministers and departmental officials have received a number of representations on the financial situation that has been developing at the privately run King Edward VII Hospital, particularly over the last few months. I am aware that the hon. Gentleman wrote to my right hon. Friend last week. Furthermore, the director of health and social care for the south of England met the hospital's chief executive and director of finance to explore what the NHS could do, and discussions continue with NHS officials.

Mr. Tyrie: Is the Minister aware that the hospital is not private but independent, with half its patients coming from the NHS? Will she urgently examine why 40 per cent. of NHS work has been withdrawn over the past few months, which is the immediate cause of the closure, and whether that work can be restored? Is she aware that the hospital's closure will create a dramatic increase in waiting times for orthopaedic and cardiac work in the area? Is not it absurd that people from the area are being sent abroad for treatment, especially for orthopaedic work, when they can be treated at less cost at the King Edward VII hospital?

Jacqui Smith: As the hon. Gentleman says, the hospital is not an NHS hospital, but the NHS in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire has worked with it for a number of years and recognises its contribution to local NHS patient care, as well as to providing care for independent private patients. The NHS throughout the country, certainly in the areas that concern the hon. Gentleman, is planning for and funding increased capacity and activity. Its purpose is not to reduce it. It is in that context that detailed discussions are ongoing with both

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the hospital and the liquidators to maintain capacity, subject obviously to cost and quality considerations at the hospital.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): I am aware that discussions have been going on with Ministers behind the scenes. I acknowledge the hard work and approaches of my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) and the receptiveness of Ministers. We certainly hope that this outstanding not-for-profit hospital can survive its centenary year and continue as a centre of excellence, having looked after a majority of NHS patients over the past 50 years in cancer care, cardiac work and orthopaedics in particular.

As my hon. Friend says, is not it absurd that NHS patients are being sent abroad rather than up the road to a hospital that has state-of-the-art scanners, angioplasty equipment and its own intensive care unit? What assessment has the Minister made of the likely impact on waiting times for NHS patients served by hospitals in Guildford, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and the whole of Sussex that previously relied on the centre, especially if the worst comes to the worst?

Jacqui Smith: Serving the interests of NHS patients in that hospital and others in the area is, of course, the priority. That is why the NHS was willing to enter into partnership with private sector partners who were negotiating with the hospital and to undertake long-term contracts, given the necessary consideration of quality and price. That objective will continue to underlie the ongoing work with the liquidator. As I said, our priority remains to increase capacity and activity to ensure the very best services for NHS patients, wherever those are provided.

Complementary Medicines

15. Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): What steps he is taking to improve GPs' understanding of acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal medicine and homeopathy. [90203]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jacqui Smith): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being called to ask his question; it has relieved my hon. Friends of the guessing game of who will be on the happy receiving end of it.

In June 2000 we issued an information pack for primary care groups on the most commonly used therapies. We are currently co-funding with the King's Fund a project run by Westminster university to develop good practice in the clinical governance of complementary and alternative medicine, using a network of primary care trusts.

Mr. Tredinnick : I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she agree that with 20 per cent. of the population now using complementary therapies, the time has come to make doctors more aware and thereby ensure a better interface, which is what many doctors want? Does she accept that the problem is that the royal colleges and faculties are not issuing guidance or providing post-graduate courses for doctors, which goes against the

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recommendations in the Lords report, in particular recommendation 6.85, which says that the royal colleges should address the issue of familiarisation by

for doctors? Will she assure us that she will consider the issue to determine whether it is appropriate to issue guidance to the royal colleges?

Jacqui Smith: As the hon. Gentleman points out, many of the decisions are for the royal colleges to make, but the medical profession has recently added a

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mandatory requirement for complementary and alternative medicine familiarisation to the medical curriculum.

Alongside that, the network that I referred to earlier is important in helping to ensure that GPs and primary care trusts are confident about clinical governance issues concerning the use of complementary and alternative medicine. To support that process, Ministers recently agreed to provide additional funding to help to extend the network and to create an interactive website for participants, so that more people can understand what I know the hon. Gentleman strongly believes to be the benefits of such treatment.

14 Jan 2003 : Column 547

Sizewell (Security Breach)

Mr. Speaker: Order. Before I call the urgent question, I point out to the House that this is a very narrow matter, and I do not intend to allow it to run for a great length of time.

12.30 pm

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the implications of yesterday's security breach at Sizewell nuclear power station.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths): At 6 o'clock yesterday morning, Greenpeace activists illegally entered Sizewell B nuclear site and carried out acts of protest. From the initial incursion at the perimeter fence, site security was at all times monitoring the intruders and their actions. At no time did they enter sensitive areas such as the control room or the reactor building, which remained secure throughout. To avoid unnecessary risk to both protestors and security staff, no action was taken to remove protesters from the roof of facilities. Suffolk constabulary were in attendance.

Security at nuclear power stations is designed according to the Xdefence in depth" principle. A perimeter fence alone cannot stop mass intrusion. Systems installed at the perimeter fence serve to delay and detect intruders, thereby enabling management to assess the threat posed by the intrusion and to activate appropriate contingency arrangements. I am satisfied that the response procedures at the site were adequate and were carried out according to plan.

Sensitive areas and systems within the site are given additional protection. The objective is to contain intruders while continuing to protect the sensitive areas and systems within the site. The security did protect the sensitive parts of the site; it was adequate and it worked properly. Despite their attempts, the intruders did not breach any of the internal security barriers.

Security precautions at sites have to distinguish between the type of irresponsible behaviour that we saw at Sizewell yesterday and real threats. I am satisfied that both the Sizewell site security and Suffolk constabulary acted appropriately in the circumstances. However, there will be a full report into the incident by both the DTI's Office for Civil Nuclear Security, which, as the House knows, regulates security at civil nuclear sites, and British Energy, which operates the reactor. That will not be published, as the House will appreciate that it is not Government policy to disclose details of security measures taken at civil nuclear sites. However, security is kept under regular review, and we shall use the reports to review the security arrangements.

Mr. Blunt: The House and the public will be slightly concerned by the Minister's account, which sits rather at variance with that given in The Mirror by the journalists involved in the incursion. I would be grateful if the Minister answered one or two further questions.

Is it the Minister's initial assessment that security was so lax that immediate action is required at other nuclear installations? Exactly which people and organisations were responsible for security, and should changes be

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considered? How long did it take for the incursion to be detected and for the assessment to be made that this was not a terrorist operation? What lessons were learned after the previous incursion last October, and what actions were taken?

What inquiry process do the Government intend to initiate in the wake of the report to which the Minister referred? When will the report's preliminary conclusions be acted on? Do the Government think that it would be appropriate to publish the conclusions of any further inquiry following the report, and if not, how can Parliament be satisfied that lessons have been learned and acted on?

Does the Minister believe that it is possible to defend all key economic installations on a permanent basis, or must we accept that our security must be intelligence-led? In the light of these events, do the Government propose to review the balance between those two requirements?

Finally, does the Minister think that The Mirror and Greenpeace have done a service or a disservice to the country by undertaking the raid? What would the position now be if armed policemen had responded with lethal force to the incursion?

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