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NHS Healthcare Commission (Complaints)

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many complaints have been received by the NHS Healthcare Commission in each (a) London primary care trust and (b) London strategic health authority in the last 12 months. [7466]

Jane Kennedy: The Healthcare Commission took on responsibility for the independent review of national health service complaints not resolved at local level at the end of July 2004. Information from the Commission on the number of complaints about London primary care trusts (PCTs) and London strategic health authorities (SHAs) is shown in the tables.
Independent review requests, complaints about London PCTs, received between 31 July 2004 and 23 June 2005

Provider PCTNumber of complaints
Barking and Dagenham5
Brent Teaching2
City and Hackney Teaching8
Greenwich Teaching6
Hammersmith and Fulham4
Haringey Teaching8
Kensington and Chelsea4
Richmond and Twickenham2
Sutton and Merton7
Tower Hamlets4
Waltham Forest10

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Independent review requests, complaints about London SHAs

Provider SHANumber of complaints
North West London1
North Central London2
North East London6
South West London1

Patientline Contract

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the forecast financial benefit to the NHS is of the contract with Patientline in the financial year ended March 2005. [8561]

Jane Kennedy: The national health service does not benefit financially by entering into contracts with Patientline for the provision of television (TV) and telephone services at the patient's bedside. Patientline is responsible for the cost of installing and maintaining the systems. Patients are charged directly for the services used. The provision of bedside TVs and telephones gives patients more control over their environment whilst in hospital, including the ability to watch a personal TV and remain in direct contact with relatives and friends.

Prison Counsellors

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) psychotherapist and (b) psychodynamic counsellors are available to prisoners; what steps are being taken to increase the number available to prisoners; and if she will make a statement. [8101]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Information about the numbers of psychotherapists and psychodynamic counsellors available to prisoners is not collected centrally. Decisions about mental health services at individual prisons and the skill mixes necessary to deliver them are matters for the establishments concerned and their national health service partners. The commitment in the NHS plan (July 2000) that, by April 2004, some 300 additional staff would be employed on the delivery of such services has been met.

Private Diagnostic and Treatment Centres

Frank Dobson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether agency nurses, doctors or technicians who have worked in the NHS in the preceding six months can work for a private diagnostic and treatment centre; [7016]

(2) on how many occasions her Department has agreed to waive the requirement on private sector providers that they must not employ staff who have worked in the NHS in the previous six months. [7018]

Mr. Byrne [holding answer 27 June 2005]: Providers of independent sector treatment centres must not employ or engage doctors or health care professionals who have been employed or otherwise engaged in the national health service within the previous six months period. This restriction applies to staff employed by an agency who have been engaged in work for the NHS.
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A process is in place by which an independent sector provider may apply for a waiver of the restriction in relation to a specified person. Such applications are considered individually and a waiver may be granted in exceptional circumstances. To date, nine waivers from the six months restriction have been granted.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into whether selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can increase the likelihood of suicide in certain patients; and if she will make a statement; [7481]

(2) what guidance her Department has issued to GPs regarding the prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; and if she will make a statement; [7483]

(3) what measures are being taken to reduce the prescribing of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; and if she will make a statement; [7484]

(4) what research she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated concerning the impact of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on (i) pregnant women and (ii) unborn foetuses; and if she will make a statement. [7485]

Jane Kennedy: On 6 December 2004, a letter was sent to all health professionals in the United Kingdom from the Chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) announcing the results of the review of the safety of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) conducted by an expert working group of the CSM and providing prescribing advice for all SSRIs. A copy of the review is available in the Library.

On the same day, the then National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), now the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, published guidelines on the management of depression in primary care. These guidelines state that antidepressants are not recommended for the initial treatment of mild depression because the risk-benefit ratio is poor.

The expert working group of the CSM carefully considered the available data on a possible link between SSRIs and suicidal behaviour from published and unpublished trials, spontaneous reporting data from health professionals and patients, evidence from key stakeholders and data from the general practice research database (GPRD).

The expert working group concluded that from the available clinical trial data, a modest increase in the risk of suicidal thoughts and self-harm compared to placebo can not be ruled out. However, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that there is any marked difference between members of the class of SSRIs, or between SSRIs and other antidepressants, with respect to their influence on suicidal behaviour.

Evidence from non-experimental studies based on the GPRD indicated that there is no increased risk of suicidal behaviour with SSRIs compared with tricyclic antidepressants. One of the GPRD studies was commissioned by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
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Information about the use of SSRIs during pregnancy is included in the prescribing information for healthcare professionals, the summary of product characteristics. This advice is based on pre-clinical studies, carried out prior to licensing, and continuous post-marketing surveillance of pregnancy outcomes.

Sexual Health

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will take steps to ensure that every (a) sexual health clinic and (b) accident and emergency department offers post-exposure prophylaxis to its users. [7759]

Caroline Flint: Primary care trusts are responsible for providing sexual health services, which meet the needs of their local populations. To support them in this role, the Department has worked with leading professional bodies to produce the recommended standards for national health service HIV services (2003). These highlight the need to make post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) available to those who need it.

The decision on whether to offer PEP for the purposes of preventing HIV transmission should be taken by clinicians in consultation with the patient, and will depend upon the particular circumstances. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, and the Government's expert advisory group on AIDS (EAGA) have both published guidance to help clinicians and EAGA keep the evidence on the effectiveness of PEP under review.
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The Department has also funded the Terrence Higgins Trust to undertake a campaign to raise awareness of PEPamong those at risk of non-occupational HIV transmission. Following a successful evaluation, this campaign will be rolled-out across the country.

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