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15 Jan 2003 : Column 671Wcontinued
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether there is scientific evidence to suggest that the presence of amnesic shellfish poisoning toxins in scallops represent a threat to human health; what scientific investigations have been carried out by the Government in relation to the impact of ASP on human health; and what scientific evidence was used to determine this level. 
Ms Blears: The most recent significant outbreak of amnesic shellfish poisoning affecting humans was recorded in Canada in 1987. Approximately 150 people became ill; there were 19 people hospitalised and four deaths. Following the outbreak, the Canadian authorities imposed an action limit in mussels of 20mg/kg domoic acid per gram of tissue, above which harvesting was suspended. This was based on observations of those who became ill, including estimates of levels of toxins actually ingested.
The European Union adopted this action limit for mussels and other bivalve molluscs including scallops in 1997 (Directive 97/61/EC). The Food Standards Agency has recently written to the European Commission asking them to consider the case for a scientific review of the current internationally accepted action level of 20 mg/kg in scallops, and how such a review may be taken forward.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the level of amnesic shellfish poisoning may vary from scallop to scallop; and on what basis the whole Irish Sea scallop fishery is closed when one particular scallop is detected with levels of AMP above that of the safety level. 
Ms Blears: I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that the level of domoic acid, which causes amnesic shellfish poisoning, may vary from scallop to scallop. Closures of scallop fisheries are not based on the analysis performed on one scallop, but an homogenate sample of a number of scallops.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what scientific evidence the decision was taken to impose the safety level of 20mg/kg of amnesic shellfish poisoning in scallops caught in UK waters; on which dates the Irish Sea scallop fishery was closed and reopened in each of the last five years; and what estimate she has made of the length of time that the Irish Sea scallop fishery would have been closed in each of the last five years had there been a safety limit of 4.6mg/kg for amnesic shellfish poisoning in place. 
Ms Blears: Following an outbreak of amnesic shellfish poisoning in mussels in Canada in 1987, where approximately 150 people became ill, resulting in four deaths, the Canadian authorities imposed an action limit in mussels of 20mg/kg domoic acid per gram of tissue, above which harvesting was suspended.
The EU adopted this action limit for mussels and other bivalve molluscs including scallops in 1997 (Directive 97/61/EC). This was implemented in Northern Ireland by the Food Safety (Fishery Products and Live Shellfish) (Hygiene) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern
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Ireland) 1999. The Irish Sea scallop fishery was closed from September 1999 to February 2000, and part closed from November to December 2002. The new level of 4.6 mg/kg forms part of a Commission Decision which member states have the option to implement. No final decisions have been made as to whether the United Kingdom will adopt this Decision. Full regulatory impact assessments will be prepared before any such decision is taken.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is with regard to the introduction of a 4.6mg/kg safety limit for amnesic shellfish poisoning toxins; and what estimate he has made of the likely effect upon the UK scallop fishery industry.
Ms Blears: Council Directive 91/492/EEC currently provides for production areas to be closed when amnesic shellfish poisoning toxin levels exceed 20mg/kg in whole scallops (or any part edible separately). The new level of 4.6 mg/kg forms part of a Commission Decision which member states have the option to implement. No final decisions have been made as to whether the United Kingdom will adopt this Decision. Full regulatory impact assessments will be prepared before any such decision is taken.
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 14 January 2003]: The number of social work students who will be entitled to the bursary will depend on the number accepted onto courses by the universities and whether or not the student is in employment and supported through training by their employer. At the end of 2002 there had been 5,070 applications to the Social Work Admissions Service for social work courses beginning in September 2003.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures have been introduced since 1997 to help ensure that elderly people not capable of self-care can maintain the highest possible quality of life. 
Jacqui Smith: Older people are the major users of health and social care. They have benefited, and will continue to, from the increased levels of funding of the national health service and social care services. Within this overall context and within the framework initially set out in the White Papers, XThe New NHS: Modern; Dependable" (December 1997), and XModernising Social Services" (November 1998), a range of measures have been introduced to ensure that older people's quality of life is maximised. They include:
Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation;
establishment of the Royal Commission on long-term care and response to its recommendation, including free nursing care;
national service framework for older people, including the development of intermediate care facilities;
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increased funding for carers;
Commission for Health Improvement;
Essence of Care toolkit, aimed at assisting nurses and others to maintain and improve the quality of care; and
establishment of the National Care Standards Commission, an independent body to regulate social and health care services, including domiciliary care agencies.
Jacqui Smith: Under the 'No Secrets' guidance, local multi-agency codes of practice were to be implemented by 31 October 2001. The Department has since commissioned the centre for policy on ageing to analyse these codes. The analysis, entitled XNo Secrets: Findings from the analysis of local codes of practice", is available in the Library and through the Department of Health website at www.doh.qov.uk/scg/nosecrets.htm.
Additionally, the Department is funding the practitioner alliance against abuse of vulnerable adults to examine progress at local level on implementing key aspects of practice identified in XNo Secrets".
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what financial assessment he has made of the impact of European Commission Regulation COM (2002) 377 on abattoirs in the UK; what discussions he has had and what representations he has received on European Commission Regulation COM (2002) 377; what steps he is taking to assist abattoirs in meeting the requirements of the Regulation; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 13 January 2003]: The Food Standards Agency has published an initial regulatory impact assessment on its website as part of its stakeholder consultation on the Commission's proposed Regulation COM (2002) 377. That Regulation will provide rules for official controls on abattoirs. The Agency estimates the costs to the meat sector would be approximately neutral, although some abattoirs would benefit from reduced levels of veterinary supervision. How costs fall between industry and government will be dependent on a proposal for a further Regulation on official feed and food controls expected to be published shortly.
The Agency's consultations on the Commission's official controls proposals have elicited a number of responses, many expressing concern should the proposals result in new unjustified burdens and costs on the abattoir sector. In addition the previous Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health (Yvette Cooper) received representations and had discussions with UNISON over the union's concerns that the proposal contained provisions allowing plant staff to carry out tasks currently undertaken by its members. I have received similar representations.
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Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list (a) the number of operations cancelled at the last minute and (b) the number of patients not readmitted within 28 days of their operation being cancelled in each of the last four quarters in (i) England and (ii) each NHS region. 
Mr. Hutton: Quarterly data are collected on the number of operations cancelled by the hospital for non-clinical reasons (i) at the last minute (ie on the day patients are due to arrive or after arrival in hospital or on the day of their operation) and (ii) on the day of surgery.
The NHS Plan cancelled operations guarantee has been in place since 1 April 2002 and since then, data have been collected on the number of patients not admitted within 28 days of cancellation on the day of surgery.
Data have been aggregated to strategic health authority level since 1 April 2002. Trust level data have been collected since Quarter 1 200102. Prior to this, data were collected at health authority level.
Mr. Hutton: Quarterly data are collected on the number of operations cancelled by the hospital for non-clinical reasons (i) at the last minute (i.e. on the day patients are due to arrive or after arrival in hospital or on the day of their operation) and (ii) on the day of surgery. These data are available in the Library and on the Department's website at www.doh.gov.uk/hospitalactivity/datarequests.htm.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many operations have been cancelled by the NHS in each of the past eight quarters; and what percentage of these cancellations have not been rebooked (a) within a month and (b) for a date within two months, broken down by (i) Strategic Health Authority Area and (ii) NHS trust. 
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 13 January 2003]: Quarterly data are collected on the number of operations cancelled by the hospital for non- clinical reasons (i) at the last minute (i.e. on the day patients are due to arrive or after arrival in hospital or on the day of their operation) and (ii) on the day of surgery. Data are also collected on the number of patients not admitted within 28 days of cancellation on the day of surgery.
Data have been aggregated at strategic health authority (StHA) level since Quarter 1 of 200203. Prior to that, data was aggregated at regional level. Trust level data has been collected since Quarter 1 of 200102. Prior to this data were collected at health authority level. All the data can be accessed in the Library and on the Department's website at: www.doh.gov.uk/hospitalactivity/datarequests.htm.
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Since 1 April 2002, the NHS Plan cancelled operations guarantee has been in place. National Health Service trusts are performance managed on their performance against the NHS Plan guarantee by StHAs. Patients re-booked within 28 days are not separately identified in the data and may have had their operation cancelled in the previous quarter. Therefore, it is not statistically valid to calculate the percentage of patients who have been re-booked as a proportion of those cancelled.
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