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Hepatitis C

9. The Reverend Martin Smyth (Belfast South) (UUP): How many people infected with hepatitis C through NHS treatment will benefit from the ex gratia payment scheme. [142551]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): Work on the detail of the scheme is ongoing, so the exact number of potential beneficiaries is not yet known.

Rev. Martin Smyth: I am sorry that the number is not known, but does the Minister agree that, despite the goal of patient choice, those people had no choice? They were infected as a result of a mistake by the health service, and should all be compensated. Some of them have died, but their relatives have not been compensated either.

Miss Johnson: Because we recognised that there were compassionate grounds, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that, in principle, he would introduce ex gratia payments on compassionate grounds for patients infected with hepatitis C following treatment with contaminated blood and blood products. A scheme is currently under construction.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): I hope that my hon. Friend noticed that the annual "Carpet of Lilies" campaign was held last week by the Haemophilia Society and that, sadly, we presented 232 lilies to No. 10 Downing street last week. I hope that she will take into consideration the fact that the relatives of the 232 haemophiliacs who died as a result of contracting the hepatitis C virus deserve compensation. All HCV strains are rather miraculous, as they mutate rapidly and even disappear, so will she take into account the fact that although people contracted HCV years ago they may not be HCV-positive today? However, because of the trauma that they have suffered they still deserve compensation.

Miss Johnson: First, may I extend our sympathies to everyone who has suffered as a result of contracting hepatitis C, and say that we were aware of the "Carpet of Lilies" day last week? Secondly, we are well aware of a number of concerns expressed by my hon. Friend about the proposed scheme. We are in discussion with the chairman and chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, who have also met my officials in the Department. We are considering those concerns, but the fact is that we have to decide how to use the money to the best effect. As with all things, it is not an unlimited pot.

Local Treatment Centres

10. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab): If he will make a statement on plans for provision of local treatment centres. [142552]

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): The national health service is developing a large number of

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new treatment centres, which will enable more patients to receive more operations more quickly. The programme will also enable the NHS to offer patients a greater choice about where they are treated.

Mike Gapes : Is my right hon. Friend aware that for many years we have had a severe shortage of hospital beds in north-east London? In my own trust—Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust—we have an average 98 per cent. bed occupancy. Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the decision by my local trust and the Anglo-Canadian Group to establish from March 2005 a treatment centre on the King George hospital site in my constituency, which will treat 12,000 elective surgical patients every year? Will he join me in acknowledging that that is another example of success and investment by the Labour Government?

Dr. Reid: Yes—[Laughter.] Indeed I will, but the proof of the pudding is not whether the Government give accolades or whether those on the Opposition Front Bench laugh and sneer; it is whether the people who are receiving treatment from the national health service in my hon. Friend's constituency get a better quality service quickly, in greater numbers than before. As he points out, there is no doubt that that independent sector treatment centre, which will treat an average of 11,800 patients a year over five years, will be a major boon and another indication of the results of the investment that we are putting in. Incidentally, 4,300 of those treatments will be additional operations. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and our investment will not only give a better quality of service to patients, but mean that the vast majority of people, rather than just the rich or the privileged, can get a better choice and better quality of health care.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important that the local aspect of treatment centres is considered? Will he give me an assurance that, if a primary care trust votes against a diagnostic and treatment centre because it believes that it is not in the interests of local people, it will not be subject to improper pressure from the Department of Health or the strategic health authority to change its mind? Can he assure me that that has not happened, and will not happen, in the case of the South West Oxfordshire primary care trust?

Dr. Reid: If the hon. Gentleman were a cautious person, he would wait and see the outcome of the discussions in the area that he mentioned. I will be prepared to accept them, and all reasonable people will accept that local primary care trusts have to make their own decisions, but the public will want to be sure that those decisions are based on the interests of local patients and are not unduly influenced by the interests of local providers and producers, especially consultants. It is essential that in all these decisions the interests of patients are put first. That is why we are achieving such success in improving the national health service.

Despite the criticisms that we receive from week to week, it is noticeable that the widespread use of the NHS has now extended to the royal family. I am delighted that in recent days that has been the case. There are

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people of some stature currently using the NHS, not least Ozzy Osbourne, and I am sure that all of us wish him a speedy recovery.

Passive Smoking

11. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab): What contribution to the policies of his Department on controls over secondary smoking in public places has been made by the chief medical officer for England. [142553]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): The chief medical officer's annual report that was published in July, which highlighted second-hand smoke, is an extremely valuable contribution to the debate on this important public health topic.

David Taylor : As chair of the all-party group on smoking and health, I welcome the present taxpayer-funded campaign highlighting the dangers of second-hand smoke, but regret the reluctance of the Government to abandon the failed voluntary approach on these matters. Should we not follow the imaginative legislative example of New Zealand and others listed in my early-day motion 225? Is it not the Secretary of State who is the outrider on these issues, not the chief medical officer?

Miss Johnson: The chief medical officer is certainly no outrider, nor is the Secretary of State. We have done 98 per cent. of what the chief medical officer advised with regard to smoking. We have introduced a world-leading smoking cessation service, an education campaign with a specific hard-hitting campaign on second-hand smoke, a ban on tobacco advertising and new health warnings on tobacco. Let us be clear. The chief medical officer's role is to provide medical advice, and we as politicians have the responsibility for balancing that advice with protecting the freedom of individuals.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): What estimate has the Minister made of the loss of revenue for each percentage drop in smoking in the population at large? What proposals does she or the Chancellor have for making good the revenues lost every time people stop smoking?

Miss Johnson: That is a matter for the Chancellor, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. Let us not forget that taxation has been crucial in encouraging many people to kick the habit and better still, never to start. For every 10 per cent. increase in price, there is a 3 per cent. fall in smoking. Also, we have funded over 1,000 extra Customs officers and a national network of X-ray scanners to combat smuggling, so we have made considerable progress. The high price of cigarettes in the UK is a contributory factor to that success.

NHS Funding (Milton Keynes)

12. Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): If he will make a statement on NHS funding for Milton Keynes. [142554]

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The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): The resources available to Milton Keynes primary care trust will increase over the next three years by £47.8 million or 31.3 per cent. It is for primary care trusts in partnership with strategic health authorities and others to determine how best to use their funds to meet national and local priorities.

Dr. Starkey : My constituents welcome the generous extra funding that Milton Keynes has already received, but the Minister will be aware that it is one of the Government's housing growth areas and we are concerned about future health spending. In particular, given that health funding is set for a three-year period based on the population figures in year 1, we are concerned about how future health funding will take account of the very fast population growth in our area. Will the Minister consider a special mechanism for Milton Keynes to meet those growth problems, and will he ask the Secretary of State for Health if he would be prepared to meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) to discuss the issue in more detail?

Mr. Hutton: Yes, of course we are happy to discuss with my hon. Friends any aspect of the funding formula for primary care trusts. I add two brief comments to what my hon. Friend said. It has benefited primary care trusts to have three-year allocations because that has allowed them to plan more effectively how to use those resources to the maximum effect. Making three-year allocations has been a positive rather than a negative step for the NHS, but any change to the funding formula has to apply equally and fairly to every primary care trust. That is at the forefront of our minds, but we are happy to discuss in further detail any of my hon. Friend's concerns.

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