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Aston Hall Hospital

5. Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the reprovisioning of Aston Hall hospital. [148788]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): Derbyshire mental health services NHS trust—together with the local social services authorities, Greater Derby primary care trust and the Trent strategic health authority—remains committed to the re-provision of services at Aston Hall hospital and to minimising any further delay.

Mr. Todd : I thank my hon. Friend for that response. Obviously, there has been a slow deliberate process, and rightly so. Very sensitive people live in the hospital at the moment, and they need to be re-provided for appropriately, which takes time. One major outstanding concern is the future of the leisure centre and the hydrotherapy pool, which are used both by residents and by external visitors to the site who need that kind of care. Will he ask his officials to consider very carefully how that existing service can be maintained or re-provided appropriately?

Dr. Ladyman: My primary concern, of course, has to be with the closure of the long-stay hospitals and ensuring that the people who are left in them at the

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moment, who have very complex needs, are properly managed and that their transfer takes place in the most efficient and beneficial way for them. That is also the concern of the local authorities in respect of Aston Hall. How some of those community facilities that are currently provided in the Aston Hall building are subsequently provided is a matter for local decision, rather than for me, but I will certainly ensure that my hon. Friend's concerns are passed on to the local authorities that have to make those decisions.

General Practitioners (London)

6. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD): How many general practitioner vacancies there are in London; and when he expects Greater London to have sufficient GPs to meet residents' needs. [148789]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): Between April 2002 and March 2003, a total of 459 general practitioner posts were advertised in London. Overall, NHS primary care capacity is expanding in London. There has been an increase of 175 GPs in London since 1999, London primary care trusts are planning to recruit more than 200 additional GPs by March 2006.

Simon Hughes : Given that the Minister will accept that people, especially the homeless and people with particular needs, still face considerable problems in some areas in initially finding a GP and finding another GP if they are removed from a list, will he think of an initiative—for example, talking to the teaching hospitals in London—to encourage those who graduate to come and do a period as a general practitioner in London, even if their long-term career plan is to work in hospitals elsewhere?

Mr. Hutton: Yes, I will certainly do so, and I will let the hon. Gentleman know of the proposals that the chief medical officer published last year for reforming post-graduate medical education and training in England, which will provide a welcome new focus on training more doctors in a primary care setting. I hope very strongly that that will ensure that more doctors coming out of our medical schools will want to pursue such training. I will certainly pursue the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): My area has a high vacancy factor, but that is not the only problem that we face. We also face the difficulties of many single-handed practices and the lack of the broad range of services that can be provided locally. What action will my hon. Friend take through the new GP contract to deal with some of those shortcomings in services provided by single-handed GP practices?

Mr. Hutton: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I would be the first to acknowledge that there are still problems in many parts of London in recruiting the primary care staff whom we need. However, we are making progress, including progress in his constituency. The new general

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medical services contract will certainly help matters. It is a more flexible contract that does not tie resources precisely to the number of GPs currently in post, but instead tries to ally the needs of communities with their resources. It will give primary care trusts greater flexibility and will be allied with a 33 per cent. increase in resources for primary care. That, too, will address my hon. Friend's concerns.

Sexual Health

7. Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): If he will make a statement on sexual health among young people and teenagers. [148790]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): The Government are determined to improve the sexual health of young people and teenagers through strategies to reduce unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, and to modernise services.

Ann Winterton : Is the Minister aware that research from Harvard university, no less, shows that the safe-sex message about using condoms has had the opposite effect to that intended? It has resulted in more sexual activity with multiple partners and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, and it has driven the AIDS pandemic. Bearing in mind the fact that one in 10 young women in this country are infected with chlamydia, which can lead to infertility if undetected, that syphilis rates have risen by 500 per cent. in the past six years and that gonorrhoea rates have doubled in that time, will the Government follow the example of the Ugandan Government, who have promoted the ABC campaign to highlight abstinence and faithfulness? The campaign has resulted in a 75 per cent. fall in HIV infection among 15 to 19-year-olds; that is great, is it not?

Miss Johnson: I am delighted to hear of the Ugandan Government's success. We too are pursuing successful strategies, such as the teenage pregnancy strategy. The latest data for 2001 show an encouraging 10 per cent. reduction in the under-18 conception rate against the baseline year of 1998, and the under-16 rate has declined by 11 per cent. I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Lady's suggestion that promoting the use of condoms and the safer-sex message are not working. I am sure that she will welcome the fact that our country is the only country throughout Europe, apart from Sweden, that is introducing a nationwide programme of chlamydia screening. The programme currently covers a quarter of all English primary care trusts, including that in her constituency of Congleton. We are, of course, also involved in giving high-level messages through the sex lottery campaign that has been run on television and in magazines to increase awareness of the need to use condoms to try to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

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Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op): I know that the Minister accepts that this is a serious matter, but does she agree that just pouring more money into sexual health services will have little impact unless it is accompanied by the notion of behavioural change?

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Just say no.

Jim Dobbin: Exactly. In other words, young people should be encouraged to delay their first sexual intercourse and to have faithfulness in their relationships.

Miss Johnson: Of course we believe in promoting responsible relationships, and we are giving young people advice to encourage that. A key part of our work has been to support the professional development and training of teachers and other professionals in the context of developing a good personal, social and health education programme in schools. We continue to roll out the programme, and there are plans to recruit 3,000 more teachers to qualify for the certificate from 2004–05. Ofsted is considering undertaking a survey in 80 secondary schools to determine the learning that should be disseminated. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that the message is important. It must be coupled with advice on using condoms, and campaigns such as those that we have been running.

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): I wonder whether the Minister can tell us which is the greater cost: the cost of the infertility that will result from more than 1 million young women acquiring an infection with undiagnosed chlamydia by 2008, or the cost of bringing the chlamydia screening programme forward from 2008 so that it is implemented across the country as a matter of urgency.

Miss Johnson: As we are putting the biggest investment into the health service—the hon. Gentleman's party does not propose investing on anything like the same scale—we are doing the best we can to roll out the programme as quickly as possible. As I said, a quarter of all PCTs are covered. I agree that the issue is big and that the impact of chlamydia on people's health is important, particularly because it is an asymptomatic sexually transmitted infection, and because of its impact on fertility. It is for that reason that a third phase of the roll-out of the programme will take place later this year.

Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North) (Lab): Is it not clear that the use of condoms is the most effective way of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies? Is it not dangerous for anyone to advocate that that is not the case?

Miss Johnson: I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sexual activity—that would have a 100 per cent. success rate. I agree, however, that we must accept the reality that that approach is not a lifestyle option that all individuals will be prepared to choose. That is why the promotion of correct and consistent

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condom use remains high on the public health agenda, and is consistent with the strategies that we are promoting.

Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Does the Minister agree that there has been a growing epidemic in STIs over the past six years, with syphilis increasing by 933 per cent., gonorrhoea by 105 per cent. and chlamydia by 141 per cent.? If the Government are serious about tackling this epidemic, surely it would be better for them to introduce a national service framework as opposed to their current strategy, which, as they have admitted, is merely a wish list.

Miss Johnson: The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that we should have more targets—but he and his hon. Friends were arguing just the opposite a few moments ago. I cannot understand that. We have a proper framework in the sexual health strategy, which has standards and a commitment to funding. The funding is an extra £47 million, plus a further £20 million committed for the next two years, to tackle a wide range of issues, including chlamydia testing, to pump-prime genito-urinary medicine services, to address the problem of queues and to increase contraception and prevention work.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park) (LD): When will the Government have sexual health campaigns on prime-time television, so that a nation that is obsessed with sexual activity will also become obsessed with the prevention of sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies?

Miss Johnson: We are doing all we can to raise the profile. I have told the hon. Lady before that the promotion of the sex lottery campaign has been very successful, and the evidence shows that it is working effectively. It is obviously not designed to reach 50-year-old Members of Parliament, or other age groups of that ilk, so hon. Members may not have seen it because it is often on television, and in magazines, that are targeted at late teenagers and those in their early 20s—who, sadly, are underrepresented in the House.

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