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10 Feb 2003 : Column 588W—continued

External Consultancy

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much (a) his Department and (b) each agency and non-departmental public body spent on external consultancy in each year from 1995–96 to 2002–03 (planned); and if he will make a statement. [92238]

Mr. Lammy: Expenditure by the Department, each agency and non-departmental public body (NBPB) on external consultancy each year from 1995–96 to 2002–03, is shown in the table.


Financial year
1995–96 1996–97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–2000 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03
NHS Estates1.6921.1491.0250.9261.7053.0644.339(44)4.588
NHS PA(45)(45)0.0080.0220.0030.470.007(44)0.005
NHS PASA(45)(45)(45)(45)(45)0.8651.127(44)0.581
Exec NDPBs

(43) Spend to December 2002

(44) Planned spend

(45) Organisation not established


MDA—Medical Devices Agency

MCA—Medicines Control Agency

NHS Estates—Estates Agency

NHS PA—Pensions Agency

NHS PASA—Purchasing & Supply Agency

CHI—Commission for Health Improvement

GSCC—General Social Care Council

HFEA—Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority

NCSC—National Care Standards Commission

NRPB—National Radiological Protection Board

NBSB—National Biological Standards Board

PHLSB—Public Health Laboratory Service Board

Figures have only been provided for Executive NDPBs as advisory NDPBs are non spending bodies and therefore do not hold budgets.

10 Feb 2003 : Column 589W

Food Standards Agency

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the results of annual public opinion polls conducted by the Food Standards Agency on its effectiveness in gaining public trust; what plans he has to commission an independent appraisal from (a) the National Audit Office and (b) other bodies; and if he will make a statement. [96130]

Ms Blears: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissions an annual survey of public attitudes to food safety and standards issues that also examines levels of consumer confidence in the FSA. The surveys were undertaken by an independent research company, following a competitive tendering exercise carried out under Government procurement guidelines. The first Consumer Attitudes Survey was conducted during the first year of the FSA's establishment and was published in February 2001. The second survey was published in February 2002 and the third will be published shortly. Copies of the surveys are available on the FSA's website at or on request from the FSA.

Therefore I see no reason to commission an independent study to measure levels of public trust in the FSA. It is a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General, as head of the National Audit Office, to determine which subjects to review and whether or not to report to Parliament on them. I understand the NAO currently has an examination of service delivery under way, one part of which is reviewing aspects of the performance achieved by the FSA. The Comptroller and Auditor General will report to Parliament on this in due course.

Free Eye Tests

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many free eye tests were given to (a) pensioners and (b) other people in (i) West Sussex and (ii) England in each year since 1997. [96099]

Mr. Lammy: The table shows the number of national health service sight tests paid for in West Sussex Health Authority for 1997–98 to 2001–02. Figures for the number of sight tests by age are not collected centrally. The nearest eligibility category for pensioners is those aged 60 and over.

Eligibility to NHS sight tests was extended to those aged 60 and over from 1 April 1999. There was an increase of 2.4 million sight tests between 1998–99 and 1999–2000. It is fair to assume that the vast majority of this increase was due to newly eligible people aged 60 or over obtaining NHS sight tests.

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General ophthalmic services: number of sight tests paid for in West Sussex Health Authority and England for the year 1997–98 to 2001–02

YearSight tests for those aged under 60 Sight tests for those aged 60 and over Total number of sight tests
West Sussex


Diana Organ : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many general practitioner vacancies there are in the Forest of Dean constituency. [96543]

Ms Blears [holding answer 7 February 2003]: The information requested is not available centrally. Statistics on general practitioner vacancies were collected by health authority area. For the twelve months between 1 March 2001 and 28 February 2002, the number of GP vacancies within the former Gloucestershire health authority area was 28.

Health Centre (Rossendale)

Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the LIFT funding for a new health centre in Stacksteads, Rossendale is (a) time limited and (b) dependent on the site chosen for the project; and who is responsible for imposing such conditions. [95594]

Jacqui Smith: The central funding provided by the Department to support the East Lancashire local investment finance trust (LIFT) is being made available during the financial years 2002–03 and 2003–04.

Prioritised LIFT schemes for the East Lancashire LIFT were published in their strategic service development plan in August 2002, all of which have been agreed by local stakeholders.

Herbal Medicines

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many adverse reactions to (a) herbal medicines and (b) vitamins and minerals there have been in each year since October 1996. [94225]

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Ms Blears: The Yellow Card Scheme provides for voluntary reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions by general practitioners, hospital doctors, dentists, coroners, pharmacists and nurses. As the scheme is voluntary, not all adverse reactions are reported. The Yellow Card Scheme was extended to include unlicensed herbal remedies in October 1996.

The table provides a breakdown of the number of reports of suspected adverse reactions received through the Yellow Card Scheme in association with products containing herbal ingredients or vitamin and minerals.

Number of reports of suspected adverse reactions
Received yearHerbalsVitamins and minerals

It is important to remember that a report of a suspected adverse reaction does not necessarily mean that the herbal product, vitamin or mineral caused it.

Herbal medicines and vitamin and mineral products are often supplied without prescription, and are often taken without advice from doctors or pharmacists. It is generally recognised that the reporting rate for medicines supplied over the counter (OTC) is lower than that of suspected adverse reactions associated with prescription medicines. To encourage reporting of suspected adverse reactions with OTC medicines, the Yellow Card Scheme was recently extended to include nurses as reporters, and will be extended to include patient reporting via NHS Direct in the near future.

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