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6 Mar 2007 : Column 1945W—continued

Health Services: Suffolk

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the staff vacancy rate at the new Suffolk Primary Care Trust is (a) as a percentage of all staff and (b) broken down by occupation. [122534]

Andy Burnham: As Suffolk primary care trust came into existence only on 1 October 2006 information as to the vacancy rates is not currently available.

Healthy Start

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 13 February 2007, Official Report, column 41W, on the Healthy Start scheme, what arrangements she has made to monitor retail participation in Healthy Start. [123031]

Caroline Flint: The Healthy Start reimbursement unit recruits retailers to the Healthy Start scheme and maintains a database of currently active suppliers. It reports regularly to the Department on activities related
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to recruitment and payment of retailers or removal of registrations. The Department monitors reports provided and maintains a regular dialogue with the reimbursement unit to ensure that coverage of retailers across Great Britain is adequate, and that any policy or operational issues relating to retailer participation are addressed.

Heart Diseases: Screening

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received on the introduction of screening for abdominal aortic aneurisms; and if she will make a statement. [121054]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The United Kingdom National Screening Committee (NSC) has advised that screening for men aged 65 for abdominal aortic aneurysms can be recommended in principle subject to further detailed work, particularly on the appropriate configuration of treatment services and the provision of information and support to enable men to make an informed choice about whether to undergo screening. The NSC is undertaking further work on abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and will consider this topic again at its next meeting in March 2007.

The following table shows the representations that have been received on screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms from 2002.


Adjournment debate


Parliamentary questions




Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many investigations into screening were conducted by the national screening committee in each of the last five years; how many days each investigation took to complete; what the outcome was of each investigation; and if she will make a statement. [121055]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The function of the United Kingdom National Screening Committee (NSC) is to advise Ministers on all aspects of screening policy. The major topics investigated over the last five years are listed as follows. The time taken to complete each investigation varies.

Screening for type 2 diabetes

Feasibility of screening for type 2 diabetes in primary care was piloted from 2003 to 2005, with an independent evaluation report presented to the NSC in November 2006. The NSC concluded that screening certain subgroups of the population who are at high risk of type 2 diabetes was feasible and should be undertaken as part of an integrated programme to detect and manage cardio-vascular risk factors.

Bowel cancer screening

Based on the final evaluation report of the pilot commissioned by the NSC, and a formal options appraisal, the NHS bowel cancer screening programme is inviting men and women aged 60 to 69 to be screened. When fully rolled out the programme will screen 2 million people and detect around 3,000 bowel cancers a year.

Chlamydia screening

The national Chlamydia screening programme in England was established in 2003 after a successful one
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year pilot in Portsmouth and the Wirral. The programme is currently being rolled out and we expect to see national coverage during 2007.

Newborn hearing screening

The screening of all newborn babies for deafness began in 20 pilot sites in England in 2001, and is now fully rolled out across England. The test identifies hearing loss and impairment on average two years earlier than previous methods. Over 1,600 newborn babies are screened each day at 122 sites in England.

Newborn bloodspot screening

The evidence on screening for sickle cell, medium chain CoA dehydrogenase deficiency and cystic fibrosis have been assessed in the last five years and tests for these conditions have been, or are being added to the bloodspot programme.

Hospital Beds

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions her Department has had with the Suffolk Primary Care Trust in relation to the recent
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temporary closure of six beds at Walnuttree hospital in Sudbury. [122538]

Andy Burnham: Neither my right hon. Friend Secretary of State, her Ministers nor officials from the Department have had discussions with Suffolk primary care trust in relation to the temporary closure of six beds at Walnuttree hospital in Sudbury.

Hospital Beds: Greater London

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many hospital beds were available at (a) St. George's hospital, Tooting, (b) Queen Mary's hospital, Roehampton, (c) Kingston hospital, Kingston, (d) Hammersmith hospital, Hammersmith, (e) Charing Cross hospital, Hammersmith and (f) Chelsea and Westminster hospital in each year since 2000; and if she will make a statement. [125684]

Andy Burnham: The information is not held in the requested format. However, the following table shows the data as held at national health service trust level.

Average daily number of available beds, selected NHS organisations in London, 1999-2000 to 2005-06
Trust name 1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06

Chelsea And Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust








Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust








Kingston Hospital NHS Trust








South West London Community NHS Trust




St. George's Healthcare NHS Trust








Wandsworth PCT





At the end of 2001-02 South West London Community NHS Trust split to form parts of Wandsworth Primary Care Trust and Richmond and Twickenham Primary Care Trust
Department of Health dataset KH03

Medical Records

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which trusts have (a) (i) permitted and (ii) endorsed the use of smart cards for the storage of patient records and (b) shared patient records with other parties through the use of smart cards. [120300]

Caroline Flint: We are not aware that any trusts are routinely using smartcards for these purposes. The Department has considered use of smartcard technology to hold patient records, but has rejected it on grounds of patient safety and confidentiality. The use of smartcards, or equivalent tokens, has, however, been identified as having potential for authenticating patient access to patient records, and this continues to be explored as part of ongoing technical development within the national programme for information technology.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what penalties are in place for (a) hospitals and (b) NHS staff who breach smartcard rules regarding access to the Care Records database. [119560]

Caroline Flint: Legal penalties for individuals and organisations misusing personal health and other information are provided for under section 60 of the Data Protection Act. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is on record as supporting the Information Commissioner in his call for these to be increased. Individual patients may also seek redress through the courts for breach of confidentiality.

Other strong disincentives exist which protect against abuse of patient confidentiality. National health service organisations are responsible, as employers, for the actions taken on their behalf by their employees, and for disciplining their staff when they behave inappropriately. Accessing the care records service without a legitimate reason constitutes a breach of the NHS Confidentiality Code of Practice. Staff who breach patient confidentiality are subject to professional disciplinary measures. Offending doctors and nurses will be reported to their professional regulatory bodies and may face additional disciplinary action, including losing their licence to practice. In the case of general practitioners, a primary care trust may take steps to remove a GP from its list on various grounds, which would include the protection of patients in these circumstances.

The confidentiality of patient records is generally well understood by healthcare professionals. Substantial information is also being issued to frontline healthcare professionals in England about the care records service and how it will impact on their roles, and guidance on information governance. This is being
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done as part of a major exercise to prepare the NHS and then inform the public about the arrival of the service, its implications for their information and their health, and their options for participation.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether accident and emergency staff will have access to (a) sealed envelopes and (b) sealed and locked envelopes in the patient record. [119562]

Caroline Flint: Clinical staff working within accident and emergency units will have access to the content of sealed envelopes, and locked and sealed envelopes, to the extent that these cover data entered by that A and E unit, and may have access to sealed, but not sealed and locked, envelopes covering data entered by other departments or organisations. In this latter case, access to the content of the sealed envelope is only authorised where a patient gives express consent or, rarely, when required or permitted by law.

Patients have the right to restrict access to their clinical information, and clinicians responsible for treating them have a duty of care to explain to those who choose to do so the potential impact their decisions may have on their future care. If nonetheless a patient does not want important data to be available to A and E units, even though absence of that information may lead to future harm, they will have the right to seal the information.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the basis is for the conclusion of the Care Record Development Board in its paper Sealed Envelopes Briefing Paper: Selective Alerting Approach that access to sealed envelopes will be relatively rare; and how many times a day the board expects sealed envelopes to be accessed in the average NHS trust. [119564]

Caroline Flint: All information held by a doctor about a patient is subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, and patients’ consent to share, and ability to limit the sharing of their care record, is covered by the NHS care record guarantee. It is not possible to predict precisely how often circumstances will arise requiring authorised users of the care records database to open sealed envelopes without patients’ permission. In part this will depend upon the type of information that patients choose to seal. For example, the law requires some forms of communicable disease to be notified to the National Patient Safety Agency, so if a patient sealed information about this, the information would be extracted without the patient’s permission. Where information is sealed it will be opened without specific permission only where there is an explicit statutory requirement to disclose information, as in the above example, where a court orders the disclosure, or where the public interest outweighs the patient’s right to confidentiality, for example in cases of serious crime or where there are significant risks to other people. By their nature these will be very unusual circumstances.

National Blood Service: Reorganisation

Mike Wood: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reasons the number of National Blood Service processing and testing centres are being reduced from 11 to three; and why Red Cell Reference laboratories is
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to be removed from sites of major blood supply. [121799]

Caroline Flint: The National Blood Service (NBS) infrastructure is not fully adequate for modern processing and testing requirements. The testing and processing facilities require investment and modernisation which is planned as part of the national health service blood and transplant service strategy. The NBS plans to modernise its estate by investing in three blood processing and testing facilities. These will be located in Filton (Bristol), Manchester and Colindale. This configuration provides a good geographical spread of activity, maximising productivity, while maintaining adequate contingency and flexibility.

This will not impact on the local availability of products and services to patients. NBS will maintain a network of local blood banks to ensure hospitals and patients continue to get the blood and blood components they need.

NBS are aiming to reduce the number of red cell immunohaematology (RCI) reference facilities from the current 11 to five. Only by doing so can NBS be sure that there is a sufficient critical mass of the experienced, qualified staff required to deliver an expert reference immunohaematology service to hospitals, and that NBS have the necessary high quality facilities and equipment.

The RCI laboratory locations have been chosen to provide good access by all hospitals served by the NBS, and are appropriate to support the delivery of required services. All remaining RCI laboratories will continue to be on the same site as blood issue centres, ensuring immediate access to blood for crossmatching.

Mike Wood: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the effect on costs of blood transportation of moving to three blood processing and testing centres. [121800]

Caroline Flint: Transport and logistics were a key consideration in planning the new configuration of the National Blood Service (NBS). The new centre at Bristol (Filton) is due to open first and therefore more detailed work on the transport network in the south west has been carried out although the model used for Filton will also apply to the other two centres in Manchester and Colindale.

As far as possible the NBS will be utilising existing transport runs and using the blood issue centres as hubs from which bulk deliveries will be made back to the processing and testing centre. There will be an increase in the mileage, although this is likely to be minimal, and the savings the NBS are making as a result of the reconfiguration of services far outweigh the increased cost of transport.

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