Previous Section Index Home Page

Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend confirm the percentage of female patients
18 July 2006 : Column 146
subjected to such assaults, if that is known? Does she think that we have been rather more robust in ensuring the safety of our hospital accident and emergency ward employees—we have taken up the cudgels in that regard—and could we not show the same verve and enthusiasm in respect of our patients?

Ms Winterton: We have been very clear about the importance of patient safety, and particularly about making sure that there is proper protection for women. We have a follow-up strategy for some of the allegations made in the report, which is to look in more detail at some of the incidents that have taken place and to ensure that proper local investigations have been undertaken. We can then look at some of the details that my hon. Friend talks about.

On accident and emergency departments, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), the Minister with responsibility for public health, issued a consultation recently that was particularly concerned with visitors to accident and emergency departments. However, it was decided not to issue the same kind of consultation regarding mental health patients, for obvious reasons.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Having had a Bill on this subject talked out by the Government as long ago as December 1997, may I ask the Minister what level of compensation—if any—the Government typically pay to a woman mental health in-patient after she has been raped in an in-patient unit as a result of the Government’s broken promises to eliminate mixed-sex wards?

Ms Winterton: Let me be absolutely clear: the rapes referred to in this report are allegations of rape, and we have been making sure that they are investigated at local level. If rapes had taken place and there was a police investigation, that course would obviously be followed.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Does the Minister share my concern that mental health services are more at risk of reductions in expenditure, where they have to be made, than some other areas of health provision? As she is aware from figures that I gave her yesterday, the strategic health authority in my local area budgeted for a deficit, and it is making my local mental health services pay for that deficit to a degree that has led a local authority officer to suggest that those services are not safe. What action is my hon. Friend taking to ensure—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must say to the hon. Lady that her question is far too long. Can the Minister try to answer?

Ms Winterton: We have made it absolutely clear that mental health services should not be asked to pay more than any other trust in a given area; disproportionate sums should not be taken from mental health services. If my hon. Friend has any evidence of more demands being made on mental health than on other areas, I would be more than happy to look into that.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): No one who has visited a mental health hospital
18 July 2006 : Column 147
remotely believes the Minister’s assertion that 99 per cent. of them offer only single-sex wards: a flimsy curtain across a ward does not constitute a single-sex ward. In 2004, the Mind “wardwatch” campaign estimated that in reality, a quarter of mental health wards were still mixed, and we know that the situation has got worse, as many have had to revert to mixed-sex wards owing to deficit pressures. Only after a freedom of information request by Mind was today’s National Patient Safety Agency report published, revealing those 122 reports. There are allegations that those were only the cases that were reported. There was no mention of the cases that went completely unreported.

Is it not a disgrace that the Government sought to suppress the report eight months ago? Why did they do so? How many people have suffered subsequently because of the Government’s complacency and delay? What urgent action are they taking to improve conditions for vulnerable mentally ill patients in future?

Ms Winterton: Can I be—[Hon. Members: “Absolutely clear?”] Yes, I want to be absolutely clear about what happened to the report. It came to the Department on 16 January. Between that date and 23 May officials worked on the report with the National Patient Safety Agency, examining specific issues, including, for example, whether the allegations of rape had been the subject of a local investigation. It was important that we did not publish information without—particularly with allegations of rape—considering whether there had been a local investigation. That would have put some vulnerable people in an extremely awkward position. We did not want to do that.

We wanted to work on some of the other data analysis to ensure that that material was accurate and that the NHS could learn lessons from it. At the end of May the report came to Ministers, who signed it off on 5 June. Between then and now we have been examining a follow-up strategy, which has now been agreed. This is the response to the question that the hon. Gentleman asked. What are we intending to do with the information—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must be allowed to proceed down the Order Paper.

Hospitals (Surrey)

11. Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): If she will make a statement on the future of Surrey's hospitals. [85849]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint): NHS organisations in Surrey recognise that health services must change and adapt to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The local NHS is therefore looking at how it organises, delivers and uses health care, as part of the creating an NHS fit for the future programme. Any proposals that emerge from the review will be subject to a full public consultation later this year, probably in the autumn.

Michael Gove: I thank the Minister for her answer. She will be aware that the Prime Minister visited
18 July 2006 : Column 148
Frimley Park hospital in my constituency only last month to congratulate the workers of Surrey NHS on the superb service that they deliver. However, only last week primary care trust representatives told me and colleagues from Surrey that there would have to be cuts in all five of our district general hospitals, and that one of those hospitals might have to close. Can we have a guarantee from the Minister that hospitals will not close in Surrey as a result of the Minister’s mismanagement of NHS funding?

Caroline Flint: I am sure that there are some excellent examples of service in Surrey. The hon. Gentleman is coming to see me next Tuesday, I understand, to talk through some of his concerns. I cannot promise what he asks. It is important that we ensure that hospitals are fit for service. For example, I know that in north Surrey there has already been the relocation from acute to community settings of dermatology services and vascular surgery services. In north Surrey there is a fall service that provides out-of-hospital support for older people, particularly, who fall, with therapists and ambulance services that work together to prevent hospital admissions.

There are different approaches, which I saw in Doncaster on Friday. There are community matrons. Ken and Bill, two of my constituents, each had half a dozen visits to hospital last year. This year, they have not attended hospital. That is the sort of service that we want. We want hospitals that work for the community and services that we hope can keep people out of hospital and enable them to enjoy better health for much longer.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): What message does the Minister have for residents of Guildford and south-west Surrey, who met last Thursday to be told that, because of a deficit, the loss of accident and emergency services at the Royal Surrey county hospital is a real possibility? Rather than insulting local NHS managers by saying that the deficit is the result of their incompetence, does the Minister not accept that the root cause of the deficit is her Government’s changes to the funding formula, which systematically discriminates against rural areas with many older people?

Caroline Flint: However much money the hon. Gentleman’s part of the country has had, it has been overspending for many years. There has been an 11 per cent. rise in admissions to A and E, but up to 80 per cent. of visits are non-urgent or inappropriate. Services will be reviewed to try to find better ways to provide the emergency care that some people need while allowing four out of five patients currently visiting A and E to be treated better and safely in alternative settings.

GP Lists

12. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What the average size was of general practitioner practice lists in (a) England and (b) the Northamptonshire Heartlands primary care trust area in each of the last three years. [85850]

18 July 2006 : Column 149

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): For the years 2003 to 2005, the average practice list sizes at 30 September each year were 5,968, 6,149 and 6,250 respectively. For Northampton Heartlands primary care trust the equivalent figures were 8,162, 8,214 and 8,132.

Mr. Hollobone: Local GPs in north Northamptonshire should be thanked for doing their best with practitioner lists way above the national average. But with 52,100 new houses set to be built in the area in the next 15 years, will the Minister meet his opposite number in the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that practitioner lists do not rise further within the foreseeable future?

Andy Burnham: There is considerable variation throughout the country in the number of GPs per 100,000 of the population, ranging from 41 in some of the more deprived parts of the country to 83. The number of GPs in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is less than the national average, but nevertheless it is somewhere around the middle. I pay tribute to GPs in his constituency for providing an excellent service. There are 5,000 more GPs today than there were in 1997, and almost everywhere patients can now see a GP within two working days.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that general practices sometimes strike mental health out-patients off their lists because they can become verbally or physically abusive? One can understand that reaction, but sometimes such patients are then allocated another practice 30 or 40 miles away, which is no use to them at all and will not help them to recover their mental health. Will my hon. Friend look into that system to see if we cannot serve such people better, rather than just striking them from a list and sending them miles away?

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend rightly draws our attention to some difficult situations. Obviously, GP practices have to take into account considerations such as the safety of staff and the general relationships within their practices. It is the PCT’s responsibility to ensure that everybody has a GP, and it is right that that GP should be as close to the patient’s home as possible. If my hon. Friend has examples where that has not happened, I should be grateful if he would bring them to my attention, but we believe that that is the right policy to have.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury) (Con): Given the increase in the average size of GP lists, how does the Department’s recent invitation through the Official Journal of the European Union—surprisingly drafted in almost exactly the same terms as the one that he embarrassingly had to withdraw just the other day—for private sector bodies to bid for and take over PCT commissioning services and to provide health care services, help to address the problem?

Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman is completely confusing two issues. We are talking here about GP services in communities, not PCT commissioning. He referred to the increase in list sizes, but if he had been listening he would know that the figures that I gave
18 July 2006 : Column 150
show that in 2005 list sizes were lower than in 2003. The hon. Gentleman is a north-west MP and he has far more doctors per 100,000 than I do in my constituency, which is under-doctored, so I make no apology for bringing in private sector companies that are willing to provide a high-quality, open-hours GP service to parts of the country that have traditionally had poorer access to such services. If he has a problem with that, he should say so.

Mental Health Bill

13. James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What progress is being made towards producing a new draft Mental Health Bill. [85851]

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): On 23 March 2006, the Government announced their intention to produce a Bill to amend the Mental Health Act 1983. This Bill will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

James Duddridge: Will the definition of mental disorder remain the same as in the 1983 Act, or will the Secretary of State use the definition that was in the two draft Bills, which would widen the group of people who could be compelled to be treated against their will?

Ms Hewitt: We will take the opportunity offered by the new Bill to replace the definition in the 1983 Act. We will introduce a new and simplified definition of mental disorder, which in turn will be linked to the new supervised community treatment.

Skin Cancer

14. Mr. John MacDougall (Glenrothes) (Lab): What progress has been made in the prevention of skin cancer; and if she will make a statement. [85852]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint): We are concerned about the number of people being diagnosed with skin cancer, which kills more than 2,000 people each year in England and Wales. SunSmart, the national skin cancer prevention campaign, has been funded by the UK Health Departments. This summer, it is focusing on men and outdoor workers.

Mr. MacDougall: I thank my hon. Friend for her response. I welcome the Cancer Research UK SunSmart campaign, which is highlighting the high incidence of cancer among males. There has been a 31 per cent. increase in incidences of cancer in the past decade, and on average 1,000 out of every 1,777 cases of cancer involve males. I urge the health service to promote that message and do the best that it can to raise awareness.

Caroline Flint: I thank my hon. Friend for that point, which I could not have made better myself. On Monday next week, I am meeting my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) to discuss how we can control the unsupervised use of tanning beds and coin-operated machines, the use of which by under-16s has caused concern.

18 July 2006 : Column 151

G8 Summit

3.31 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair) rose—

Hon. Members: Yo! [ Laughter.]

The Prime Minister: With permission, Mr. Speaker, I want to make a statement about the G8 summit, which took place between 15 and 17 July in St. Petersburg. I pay tribute to President Putin’s chairmanship and the Russian Government’s handling of the summit.

The whole summit was understandably overshadowed by the tragic and terrible events in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. For days, we have seen the innocent killed by terrorism as a deliberate act by Hezbollah, civilians killed in the course of military retaliation by Israel, and the disintegration of our hopes for stability in this, the most fraught area of dispute in the world.

More than 1,600 rockets and mortars have fallen on northern Israel in an arc from Haifa to Tiberias, deliberately targeting civilians. In Lebanon, more than 230 people have been killed, the vast majority of them civilians. Houses, roads, essential infrastructure, factories and Lebanese army facilities have been damaged. Once again, we urge that account is taken of the humanitarian situation and that military action by Israel is proportionate. We grieve for the innocent Israelis and innocent Lebanese civilians who are dead, for their families that mourn and for their countries that are caught up in the spiral of escalating confrontation.

There are more than 10,000 registered British nationals in Lebanon, and there are probably many more, including a significant number of dual Lebanese-British nationals. We are working as hard and as quickly as we can to ensure that we can evacuate all those who want to leave. Teams of consular, military and medical officials have been deployed to Beirut, Cyprus and Damascus. We evacuated 63 of the most vulnerable British nationals from Beirut by air yesterday, but the safest way to evacuate large numbers of civilians is by sea. We have six ships in the region or heading for the region—the York and the Gloucester are now offshore, and the Illustrious, Bulwark, St. Albans and RFA Victoria Fort are heading there. The first evacuation by ship is taking place today, and further evacuations will follow. The advice to British nationals is to stay put and remain in contact with the British embassy.

We should be in no doubt about the immediate cause of this situation. It started with the kidnap of an Israeli soldier in Gaza and then action by Israel targeting Hamas on the Palestinian side. Then, without provocation, Hezbollah crossed the blue line established by United Nations resolutions, killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two more. Israel then again retaliated with air strikes against targets in Beirut. This situation therefore began with acts of extremism by militant groups that were, as the G8 said unanimously, without any justification and were, of course, designed to provoke the very response that followed.

Next Section Index Home Page