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14 May 2008 : Column 1647W—continued

Departmental Transport

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff (a) cars and (b) bicycles are (i) funded or (ii) subsidised by his Department. [197854]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Department does not fund or subsidise the purchase of cars for members of staff. Interest-free loans are available to staff for the purchase
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of season tickets or bicycles to encourage green commuting. These loans are provided within HM Treasury guidance for tax-free benefits. The same tax rules apply to benefits in kind provided to employees of Government Departments as to any other employee.

In the 2007-08 financial year, the Department approved four interest-free loans for staff purchase of bicycles.

The Department is currently putting in place a ‘cycle to work’ scheme for its employees. The scheme will support employees in taking greener journeys, by enabling the Department to loan a cycle to an employee for 12-18 months. The same tax rules apply to benefits in kind provided to employees of Government departments as to any other employee.

Drugs: EU Law

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to ensure that local authorities are aware of their obligations on the disposal of unwanted medicines under EU Directive 2004/27/EC. [203953]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 7 May 2008]: Local authorities (LAs) are obliged to collect clinical waste, including unwanted medicines, from householders on request, although they may make a charge. The Department's guidance Safe Management of Healthcare Waste, aimed at all those involved in the management of healthcare waste including LAs, was published in November 2006 and includes advice on the management of waste pharmaceuticals.

Hospitals: Clostridium

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the incidence of clostridium difficile was in hospitals before the deep clean; and what it has been since the completion of the deep clean. [203161]

Ann Keen: The national deep clean programme was announced in September 2007 and the deadline for completion was 31 March 2008. The benefits of deep cleaning will only be measurable after completion. The most recent published data on Clostridium difficile ( C. difficile) infection covers the period October to December 2007, which was while the national deep clean programme was under way.

We introduced the deep clean programme to improve patient care and experience. As set out in the written ministerial statement given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 17 January 2008, Official Report, columns 38-39WS, strategic health authorities will take the lead on evaluation locally as the impact of each trust’s programme will be different. No single measurement method will pick up all the benefits, particularly as trusts may be implementing a range of measures to improve cleanliness and tackle healthcare associated infections.

Improvements to patient experience and environment may be measurable through:

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The mandatory surveillance system operated for the Department of Health by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) provides data at trust level on the number of reports of C. difficile infection. Mandatory surveillance of C. difficile was introduced in 2004 for patients aged 65 and over and has been extended to all patients aged two and over from April 2007.

The HPA publishes these data on their website so information on the number of C. difficile infections for national health service acute trusts is available at:

Tables of the HPA data have also been placed in the Library. The latest data was published on 24 April 2008.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance his Department issues on the hygiene of new patients before they are allocated a bed in a hospital in order to reduce rates of clostridium difficile. [203162]

Ann Keen: The Department does not issue any guidance on cleaning patients before they enter into hospital in order to reduce rates of Clostridium difficile ( C. difficile). As explained in our “Clean, safe care” strategy, colonisation with C. difficile without symptoms is not considered to increase risk of transmission. Copies of the strategy are available in the Library.

C. difficile is a bacterium that lives in the gut of about 3 per cent. of healthy adults in England (ie about 3 per cent. of healthy adults are colonised). It is kept at bay by normal gut bacteria; but if those bacteria are killed by antibiotics, C. difficile can take over. Patients with C. difficile excrete large numbers of spores in their faeces which contaminate the environment. C. difficile is spread by a person swallowing the bacteria or the spores it produces. Spores transferred to other people can subsequently develop into bacteria that grow in the colon. People are normally only susceptible to C. difficile infections if they are on broad spectrum antibiotics,
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which kill normal gut bacteria. This is why good antibiotic prescribing practice is particularly important and effective for reducing C. difficile infection.

Hospitals: Food

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the quality of hospital food; and if he will assess the potential of local sourcing in improving its quality. [202430]

Ann Keen: Good quality food is important for all patients, and standards have risen. The Healthcare Commission reported that over 96 per cent. of trusts were meeting the core standards on hospital food.

The National Patient Safety Agency Patient Environment Action Team Assessments show that 99.5 per cent. of hospitals were rated as acceptable or above, with over 46 per cent. of hospitals rated as ‘Excellent’.

In the Healthcare Commission’s 2006 in-patient survey, 54 per cent. of patients rated the food as ‘very good’ or ‘good’, and 79 per cent. said they were given a choice of food while in hospital.

Human Embryo Experiments

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much funding the Government provided for (a) human embryonic stem cell research and (b) adult stem cell research in each year since funding was first provided. [200451]

Dawn Primarolo: The Department of Health does not routinely hold information on the type of stem cell used in research. The Medical Research Council (MRC) has provided my Department with the following information on the funding of stem cell research and the types of stem cells used. The information is based on a detailed analysis, conducted in 2006, of MRC spend on stem cell research, although it did not differentiate between animal and human stem cells.

2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
£ million £ million £ million Percentage £ million Percentage

Stem Cell Research total
















Influenza: Vaccinations

John Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many influenza vaccinations were given in Easington constituency in each year since 2004. [203784]

Dawn Primarolo: Influenza vaccination uptake figures are collected by primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, rather than by constituency, and are published annually in ‘NHS immunisation Statistics England’. This is available in the Library and also at

Maternity Services: Official Visits

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which maternity units Ministers in his Department have visited in the last 12 months; on what date each visit was made; and which Minister made each visit. [195754]

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Ann Keen: My right hon. Friend, the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), visited the maternity unit at the Royal Victoria hospital, Newcastle to launch the Maternity Campaign on 25 February 2008.

I visited the neonatal unit at St. Peters' hospital in Chertsey, Surrey on 31 July 2007. I also visited the antenatal clinic at the Luton and Dunstable hospital on 15 November 2007.

My hon. Friend, the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis), visited the maternity unit at the Whittington hospital, Highgate, London on 5 February 2007.

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Darzi, made a brief visit to the maternity unit at Tiverton hospital on 9 October 2007 while visiting other services at the hospital.

My hon. Friend, the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), visited the antenatal and postnatal clinic at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital on 6 July 2007.

Meat Hygiene Service

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of privatising the Meat Hygiene Service; and what discussions he has had with the Food Standards Agency on its proposals to be discussed at the board meeting on 7 May. [201389]

Dawn Primarolo: The MHS is an Executive Agency of the Food Standards Agency. The FSA Board considered the arguments for and against the delegation of official controls in approved meat establishments to an independent third party or Control Body at its open meeting on 7 May. The Board agreed that a proposed pilot of a Control Body should not be further pursued and the option of outsourcing the work of the MHS should be revisited only if there are significant changes in the official controls environment.

Medical Equipment: Hygiene

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance his Department has issued to the NHS on the use of private sector decontamination services for surgical equipment; [203407]

(2) how much his Department spent on improving decontamination services for surgical equipment in the NHS in each financial year since 2000-01. [203408]

Ann Keen: The Department can confirm that it has not issued formal guidance on the use of independent sector decontamination services. However, a statement has been made on overall policy in the area of surgical equipment decontamination. This is contained in the “2007 Clarification and Policy Summary—Decontamination of Re-Usable Medical Devices in the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Care Sectors (NHS and Independent providers)”. This document sets out guidelines to ensure universally high standards of decontamination practice and outcome, whether the provider of the decontamination service is an independent sector supplier or within the national health service. Copies of the document have been placed in the Library and are also available from the Department’s website at:

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Capital allocations made by the Department to the NHS for improving decontamination services, during the period referred to, are shown in the following table.

Capital allocations 2000-01 to 2007-08
£ million



















Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health with what standards his Department requires providers of decontamination services within the NHS to comply. [203409]

Ann Keen: Where decontamination services are provided only for internal use by the same NHS Trust or another national health service body, then policy requires compliance with the ‘essential requirements’ of the Medical Devices Directive (93/42 EC) and associated Regulations. These are referred to in 2007 “Clarification and Policy Summary—Decontamination of Re-Usable Medical Devices in the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Care Sectors (NHS and Independent providers)”. Copies are available in the Library.

Where NHS units provide services to other NHS bodies or to independent sector providers then they are subject to the full requirements of the Medical Devices Regulations 2002 (SI 618) and 2003 Amendments (SI 1697). In these instances the unit will be subject to a third party audit programme by a recognised Notified Body. The Competent Authority, The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will carry out one or more conformity assessments as described in annexes to the Regulations.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment his Department has made of the (a) effectiveness and (b) efficiency of decontamination services within the NHS. [203411]

Ann Keen: National surveys of the quality systems related to effectiveness and efficiency of both national health service and independent sector suppliers of decontamination have been undertaken since 1999. The most recent published report is ‘The Decontamination of Surgical Instruments in the NHS in England - Update report - A step change’, published in June 2005. This demonstrates improvements in virtually all areas of quality systems and control over the 1999 to 2004 period. Copies of this publication have been placed in the Library.

The Chief Medical Officer has requested a further survey during the present year. This is referred to as the National Decontamination Survey 2008 and is currently in progress. The survey will visit some 35 NHS trusts including several which use commercial suppliers of decontamination services. The trusts have
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voluntarily agreed to take part and the focus is on those institutions that pursue high-risk tissue surgery in respect of the theoretical risk of human prion disease transmission. It is expected that the full survey will be complete by August 2008.

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