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Agenda for Change

Linda Gilroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent meetings he has had with the Business Services Association to discuss Agenda for Change; and if he will make a statement. [143523]

Mr. Hutton: Officials have met the Business Services Association to discuss issues arising from the new national health service pay system. Pay, terms and conditions for staff in contracted-out services will depend on the nature of transfer agreements and any subsequent agreements reached between the organisations concerned and their employees, but the Department welcomes the opportunity to share views on workforce issues with the independent sector.

Assisted Conception Units

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children have been conceived in licensed assisted conception units using donated gametes; how many children have been unable to receive information on their genetic origins since July when donor anonymity was to have been lifted; how many children were made the subject of an adoption order and a Section 30 parental order since July; and when the Government will announce its conclusions on donor anonymity. [143358]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Nearly 25,000 children have been conceived in licensed assisted conception units as a result of treatment using donated gametes and embryos since August 1991, when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's register of such births began. After a public consultation exercise in 2002, we announced in January 2003 that we would carry out a further programme of work on the possibility of providing of identifying information about future sperm, egg and embryo donors, and make a further announcement after that. We expect to make a decision on this shortly.

In the region of 800 children have been born as a result of licensed infertility treatment using donated gametes or embryos since 1 July 2003. Over that period, the Registrar General has received 2,336 adoption orders and 27 parental orders under section 30 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Brachytherapy Treatment

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make it his policy that every patient recommended by an NHS consultant for brachytherapy treatment has the treatment funded by a primary care trust; [144545]

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Miss Melanie Johnson: The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidance on the organisation and delivery of services for people with urological cancers, including prostate cancer, in September 2002. The guidance states that the option of brachytherapy should be discussed with men with early prostate cancer.

However, the NICE guidance also acknowledges that, the place of brachytherapy in the treatment of prostate cancer is uncertain and notes the importance of research to evaluate the effectiveness of brachytherapy for prostate cancer. The guidance refers to a randomised intergroup trial comparing brachytherapy with radical surgery that is being organised by the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group, and strongly encourages UK participation in this study. As a result, the Department of Health has made available £900,000 through the National Cancer Research Network (NCRN) to enable national health service patients to enter this trial. The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) prostate cancer clinical studies group and the NCRN are working closely together to take this trial forward in the NHS.

As more evidence on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of brachytherapy becomes available, the Department will consider whether this treatment is a suitable topic for referral to NICE as a technology appraisal. The Government are devolving power from the centre to enable primary care trusts to use the extra resources for the NHS to deliver on both national and local priorities for their communities, accounting publicly for how they have used them.

Breast Cancer

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of the reasons why the UK has lower survival rates for breast cancer than other EU countries. [141878]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 4 December 2003]: Comparable statistics on cancer survival in the United Kingdom and most other European Union countries have been produced in three studies funded by the European Commission (the EUROCARE studies). Cancer registries in the UK, including staff from the National Registry at the Office for National Statistics, have been involved in these studies since they began in 1989.

The recently published findings of the EUROCARE 3 study, covering patients diagnosed in 1990–94, showed that cancer survival rates in England, in general, lag behind those in Europe. However, the study also shows that the gap in survival rates between England and other comparable countries is now beginning to diminish. For patients diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1990s, differences in the stage at diagnosis were a key explanation for the differences in survival between Western European countries.

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It is important to note that these studies predate the introduction of the NHS Cancer Plan by more than five years. The improvements in waiting times, treatment and the introduction of specialist teams for breast cancer patients now being delivered by the NHS Cancer Plan will help to ensure survival rates for breast cancer patients continue to improve. Indeed, Cancer Research UK have noted that in the past decade British women have had the worlds biggest decrease in deaths from breast cancer thanks to better diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, deaths from breast cancer among the under 70s have decreased more sharply in Britain than anywhere in the world, by 30 per cent., in the last 10 years.

Cancer Care

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how he proposes to tackle the shortfall in trained (a) oncologists, (b) radiographers and (c) physicists. [140544]

Mr. Hutton: Since 1997, there has been a 28 per cent. increase in the number of consultants in clinical oncology and a 98 per cent. increase in the number of consultants in medical oncology.

In 2003–04, central funding has been provided to support the implementation of six centrally funded training places in clinical oncology and six in medical oncology. Trusts have also been given the opportunity to create up to 14 additional locally funded training places in clinical oncology and 11 in medical oncology.

The table shows the number of clinical and medical oncologists working in the national health service between September 1997-June 2003.

The Department is committed to increasing the number of training places for radiographers and medical physicists; between 1996–97 and 2002–03, the number of training commissions for radiography have increased by 107 per cent. to 1,223. Separate information on the number of training places for medical physicists has only been collected sine 2002–03; latest plans show that work force development confederations (WDCs) expect to increase the number of training places by around 16 per cent. There is a range of recruitment, retention and returner initiatives in place to further increase the national health service work force, including radiographers and medical physicists.

The cancer care group work force team, which is a multi-disciplinary body, supports the delivery of improvements in patient services through innovative, integrated, care-centred work force development. It is an expert advisory body with representation from WDCs, the Modernisation Agency, health and social care professionals, education and training organisations, and patients and service users.

Its task is to recommend practical ways of providing the workforce needed to deliver improved services, in the right numbers, with the right skills and in the right place, taking into particular account recent and future policy initiatives.

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Hospital, Public Health Medicine and Community Health Services (HCHS): Hospital medical staff in clinical and medical oncology—England(32)
Number (headcount)

Clinical oncologyMedical oncology
June 2003

(32) Data as at 30 September each year, except for 2003, where data as at 30 June.

(33) Not available. Data for June 2003 is taken from the mini census which collected consultants only.


Department of Health medical and dental workforce census.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to ensure the replacement of radiotherapy equipment over 10 years old; [140549]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The NHS Cancer Plan committed the national health service to maintaining a modern stock of linear accelerators for radiotherapy treatment of no older than 11 years. The NHS Plan and NHS Cancer Plan made a commitment for 20 replacement and 25 additional new linear accelerators as well as for 50 additional computed tomography (CT) scanners and 50 additional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to be installed in the NHS by 2004. Funding for the linear accelerators was announced in July 2002. On 22 May 2003, my right hon. Friend the Member for Darlington, (Mr. Milburn) announced the location of the majority of the CT and MRI scanners, and a further programme of replacement CT, MRI and linear accelerators over the next three years. This will mean that by the end of 2006, no CT or MRI scanner will be older than 10 years and no linear accelerator will be older than 11 years.

Alongside the investment in equipment we are also increasing the numbers of staff working in radiotherapy

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departments and making better use of existing staff through role re-design and improved skill mix.

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