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3 Jun 2003 : Column 85W—continued

Primary Care Trusts

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the salary paid to each primary care group chairman in the year up to October 2002. [101732]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 10 March 2003]: Only one primary care group remained in October 2002 for which the chair received annual remuneration of £15,548. Details of the levels of remuneration paid to the chairs of primary care trusts (PCTs) as at 1 April 2002 have been placed in the Library.

I regret that, in answering a question from the hon. Member on Wednesday 29 January 2003, Official Report, column 901W, the average remuneration for PCT chairs in 2002–03 was incorrectly given as £12,600. The correct figure should have been £18,154.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recommendations he issues to primary care trusts on the maximum number of heads of the population for (a) palliative care and (b) intermediate care beds; and what the average number is in each primary care trust areas around London. [113405]

Ms Blears: A national survey undertaken by the National Council for Hospice and Specialist Palliative Care Services in 1999 on behalf of the Department showed that the average number of beds per million population was 51. For the former London health region, the figure was 57. Though there are major variations between former health regions in the provision of specialist palliative care beds, the £50 million central budget for palliative care allocated will help tackle inequalities in access to specialist palliative care, and enable cancer networks to reach at least the national average.

The table shows the number of intermediate care beds in the London area at 31 December 2002, the latest available figures, by strategic health authority (SHA). Data from primary care trusts is aggregated to SHA level when reporting to the Department of Health for performance management purposes.

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London DHSC

Strategic health authorityNumber of intermediate care beds—31 December 2002
North West London109
North Central London292
North East London51
South East London105
South West London146

Public Health

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 14 May 2003, Official Report, column 320W, on public health, what the expected timetable is for the proposed review of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. [115522]

Ms Blears: A timetable has not been fixed for the review. The review will take account of the new emergency powers which it is proposed to provide through the Civil Contingencies Bill.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements are in place to ensure that public health information available to individual member states of the European Union is circulated to all Members immediately after publication. [113091]

Ms Blears: There is no routine procedure for making all public health information available. However, for communicable diseases, there is a European network to share information. In addition some public health information is freely accessible on European Union member states websites

The Department of Health and its agencies make information available, where appropriate, both on websites and in communications with international bodies such as the European Commission and the World Health Organisation.

Residential Care Costs

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the unit cost figures for residential care for each local authority area obtained by his Department as part of the data collection for the performance assessment framework in each of the last three years. [114749]

Jacqui Smith: The requested information has been placed in the Library.


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with the Medicines Control Agency about the drug Seroxat. [114100]

Ms Blears: Since the marketing of Seroxat (paroxetine) in 1990, the Secretary of State for Health has been kept informed by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA), and since 1 April 2003 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on matters relating to its safety. The MCA has sought the advice of the Government's independent expert scientific advisory body, the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM).

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In the last two months the Secretary of State for Health has been informed of the on-going action relating to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Seroxat, in particular the convening of a CSM Expert Group to review the current available evidence on the safety of SSRIs, including patients reports submitted by MIND/Panorama; and the review of product information for all SSRIs to ensure that it provides necessary information to allow prescribers and patients to make informed decisions about appropriate treatment.

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent guidance has been or will be issued to GPs concerning the (a) use and (b) prescription of Seroxat. [114317]

Ms Blears: Seroxat (paroxetine) is a member of a group of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Guidance on prescribing and use of Seroxat is provided in the authorised summary of product characteristics (SPC) for health professionals and patient information leaflet (PIL). These documents contain information on use of Seroxat, contraindications, warnings and possible adverse effects. Prescribing information is also included in the British National Formulary (BNF) which is sent by the Department of Health to doctors and pharmacists.

Since Seroxat was first marketed in 1990, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Government's independent expert advisory committee, the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) have kept the safety of Seroxat under close continuous review. A number of communications have been issued to health professionals on the SSRIs via the MHRA/CSM drug safety bulletin "Current Problems in Pharmacovigilance". The most recent of these was an article focussing on the safety profile of the SSRIs in September 2000.

A CSM expert subgroup has been convened to review available information on the safety of SSRIs, including patient reports, product information for Seroxat and the other SSRIs, with particular emphasis on supporting communications between healthcare professionals and patients.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the risk of SARS entering the UK via (a) airports and (b) seaports. [111002]

Ms Blears: The combination of high levels of global travel and an infection with an incubation period of two to 10 days means that the United Kingdom will inevitably experience some cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in United Kingdom. The strategy therefore cannot be total exclusion, rather it is to diagnose early and minimise transmission from these cases within the UK.

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We have therefore taken the following measures to reduce the risk of SARS entering the UK by ports of entry:


Mr. McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what timetable the Minister envisages for selling cholesterol lowering statins over the pharmacy counter; and how he will seek to prevent inequalities arising between those who can and cannot afford the drugs. [114589]

Ms Blears: Any application to change the legal status of a particular medicine for lowering blood cholesterol will be carefully considered against the criteria for prescription-only status set out in European and UK Legislation and would be subject to public consultation. Following changes to the law in April 2002, the process of re-classifying medicines has been streamlined and the time taken from application to grant of a new legal status, has been reduced from up to 18 months to around six.

National Health Service prescribing for statins currently covers over a million patients at a cost of £546 million per year and prescribing is growing by a third each year. Analysis of prescribing suggests that there is a higher rate of prescribing in areas of greater need and that general practice is successfully ensuring that cholesterol lowering therapy is being offered in a way which will assist in the reduction of health inequalities. If cholesterol lowering drugs become available in pharmacies, general practitioners will continue to prescribe to their patients according to clinical need and we expect that this will continue to result in higher prescribing in areas of greater deprivation and ill health.

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