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11 Feb 2003 : Column 666W—continued

Contractor Fraud

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for health pursuant to his answer of 20 January 2003, Official Report, column 120W, on contractor fraud, how much money has been recovered in each of the last three years. [95092]

Mr. Lammy: The figures are shown in the table.

YearValue of Recovery (£)


Mr. Havard: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the use of erythropoietin will be referred to NICE for consideration. [95575]

Ms Blears: Erythropoietin for chemotherapy induced anaemia is being considered as part of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence's ninth wave work programme, the contents of which will be announced later this year.

Ethics Committee Administrators

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many local research ethics committee administrators resigned between (a) 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2002, and (b) 1 April and 30 November 2002. [94776]

Mr. Lammy: Administrators for local research ethics committees are employed locally, and personnel records are not held centrally. From 1 October 2002, however, the Central Office for Research Ethics Committees has monitored the resignation, appointment and training of administrators.

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Ethics Committees Authority

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the (a) membership and (b) purpose of the UK Ethics Committees Authority are; and if he will make a statement. [94747]

Mr. Lammy: There is at present no United Kingdom ethics committee authority. Directive 2001/20/EC required United Kingdom-wide opinions on the ethics of proposals for clinical trials involving medicinal products for human use from May 2004. After consultation in 2003, draft regulations implementing Directive 2001/20/EC will be laid before Parliament.

Food Supplements

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of the implications for (a) specialist manufacturers, (b) specialist retailers and (c) consumer choice of the requirement to remove from the market the nutrients and nutrient sources which are not listed as acceptable for such use under the schedules to the proposed Food Supplements (England) Regulations 2003. [96119]

Ms Blears: The regulations will not require the immediate removal from the market of food supplements containing nutrients and nutrient sources excluded from the lists in Schedules 2 and 3, which have been drawn directly from Annexes I and II in the directive. Therefore, in the short-term there is likely to be little, if any, impact upon specialist manufacturers, specialist retailers or consumer choice.

The longer-term impact will depend upon progress in adding vitamin and minerals and their sources to the lists of permitted nutrients in the directive.

In implementing the directive, the Government are able, for a limited period of time, to allow continued use of substances not on the permitted lists, and—with very few exceptions—they intend to do so.

Food Supplements/Herbal Remedies

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he last met representatives of the food supplements and herbal remedies industry; and when he next plans to do so. [96118]

Ms Blears: My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) and I last met formally with representatives of the food supplements industry in July 2002 to discuss concerns over the possible impact of the EU food supplements directive on the UK industry. At present, Ministers have no plans for further meetings about this, but are always willing to meet stakeholders when circumstances have changed or there are new issues to be raised.

My noble Friend and I have held discussions with a wide range of stakeholders in the herbal sector on a number of occasions over the last year to discuss the proposed directive on traditional herbal medicinal products. Latterly, my noble Friend attended a meeting of stakeholders at the Medicines Control Agency on 10 October 2002. He met a number of trade associations on 21 November 2002 and representatives of Consumers for Health Choice, Holland and Barrett and

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general nutrition centres on 28 November 2002. He also attended a Consumers for Health Choice Parliamentary Reception on 4 December 2002.

My noble Friend plans to meet herbal interest groups again when the European Commission has published updated proposals for the directive. A date for this meeting has not yet been fixed.

Fraud and Theft

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money has been lost by his Department and its agencies and non-departmental public bodies through (a) fraud and (b) theft for each year since 1996–97. [92453]

Mr. Lammy: The figures are shown in the table.

Amounts lost through fraud and theft

DepartmentAgenciesNon-departmental public bodies

The Department has a counter fraud service, staffed by professionally trained and accredited counter fraud specialists.


Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what comparative risk assessment he has conducted of kava-kava. [91948]

Ms Blears: Decision making in medicines regulation is based on the comparative evaluation of the risks and the benefits of individual products. All available data in relation to the risk of hepatotoxicity associated with kava-kava was carefully considered, taking into account the evidence of benefits of treatment.

The risk assessment for kava-kava was considered by the Committee on Safety of Medicine (CSM), an expert subgroup of the CSM, which included independent experts in herbal medicine, clinical pharmacology and liver disease and the Medicines Commission. In total these committees have considered the safety of kava-kava in depth on five separate o ccasions since December 2001.

The CSM and the Medicines Commission considered a comparative assessment of the risks of kava-kava and benzodiazepines such as bromazepam, oxazepam and diazepam. Following consideration of all available data, these advisory committees considered the level of risk of hepatotoxicity associated with kava-kava to be unacceptable.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether massage oils containing extract of kava-kava plant applied to the scalp for relief of stress will be exempt from the terms of the Medicines for Human Use (Kava-Kava) Prohibition Order 2002. [96061]

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Ms Blears: Massage oils are not normally regarded as medicinal products by the Medicines Control Agency, but this depends on their ingredients and the claims made for them. However, medicinal products for external use are excluded from the scope of the Medicines for Human Use (Kava-Kava) Prohibition Order 2002. Accordingly, the Order does not cover massage oils containing kava-kava which are medicinal products.

Modernisation Agency

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the budget of the Modernisation Agency is in (a) 2002–03 and (b) subsequent years which have been allocated. [95400]

Mr. Lammy : The delegated revenue budget for the Modernisation Agency for 2002–03 is £106.5 million.

Budgets for subsequent years have not yet been finalised. However, it is anticipated that additional resources will be made available during the three year period from 2003–04 to 2005–06 in order to fund specific initiatives to be taken forward by the Modernisation Agency.

National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many consultations he has received in response to the National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy. [96075]

Ms Blears: The Cabinet Office strategy unit and the Department of Health conducted a joint consultation exercise on the national alcohol harm reduction strategy. This consultation exercise ran from 15 October 2002 to 15 January 2003. 319 responses were received.

NHS Operations

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of operations carried out by NHS hospital trusts in England in the last year which have resulted in retained instruments left inside the patients. [96093]

Ms Blears: At the present time, we do not know how many national health service patients are affected by this type of medical error.

However, retained instruments and in particular swabs, are a recognised patient safety issue, both nationally and internationally.

The Government have established the national patient safety agency to improve the safety of NHS patient care by promoting an open and fair culture and by introducing a national reporting and learning system for adverse events. It is planned for the system to be rolled out across the NHS from summer 2003. The reporting and learning system will, in time, enable us to understand the nature and extent of adverse events in the NHS, including material retained within patients, and take action to prevent them from being repeated.

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