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Cancer Treatment

6. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): What plans he has to increase the speed of treatment of people presenting to their GPs with symptoms consistent with cancer. [310021]

The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): Over 94 per cent. of patients currently see a cancer specialist within two weeks of urgent referral for suspected cancer by their GP. Of those subsequently diagnosed, 85.7 per cent. commenced treatment within 62 days. We have plans to offer patients in England access to diagnostics that may confirm or exclude cancer within one week.

Tony Lloyd: Can my right hon. Friend confirm that if the Government's cancer pledge that patients will be referred within a week comes to fruition, it will save 10,000 lives every year? That is very significant, given that cancer is still seen not simply as a major killer but as a major condition, in terms of people's view of health care in this country. Is there any chance of my right hon. Friend being able to persuade Opposition parties that consensus would be in the national interest?

Andy Burnham: I can confirm that the aim of reducing to one week the wait that people experience during what is probably the most stressful time of their lives is very much the Government's policy. The national cancer director has estimated that that would indeed save 10,000 lives every year. As my hon. Friend says, the key challenge is early diagnosis. We must focus, and are focusing, all our efforts on that. I do not believe that some of the policies promoted by others would get us anywhere. In fact, they would return us to the days of a postcode lottery for those important services.

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I am well aware that that exchange constituted an attempt to shed light on Conservative policy. Of course the Conservative party wants to see improvements in the provision of cancer services. As the Secretary of State said, there must be a much greater focus on prevention, earlier presentation leading to earlier diagnosis, faster access to innovative drugs and treatments, swifter implementation of survivorship initiatives, and implementation of quality indicators. All those will improve under a future Conservative Government. The key question that the Secretary of State needs to answer is why, despite the Government's 12 years in office, Britain's five-year cancer survival rates are still among the worst in Europe.

Andy Burnham: Without going into all the nonsense and waffle with which the hon. Gentleman began his question, may I just give him his answer? In a letter to me last year, which prefaced the "Cancer Reform Strategy" annual report, the national cancer director said that there had been a further fall in cancer mortality in the last two years for which figures were collected. Overall, therefore, there has been a decrease of 19.3 per cent. among under-75s since 1995-97. In his words:

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The hon. Gentleman did not say that he would remove targets, but he needs to explain how we would achieve such improvements if we were to simply drop all the targets.

GP Surgeries

7. Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): What proportion of GP surgeries are open in the evenings and at weekends. [310022]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Some 77 per cent.-three quarters-of GP surgeries in England are open outside normal surgery hours, offering their patients routine appointments. We expect this figure to continue to rise.

Andrew Gwynne: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. As somebody who, unfortunately, had to make extensive use of GP services over the Christmas recess, including the out-of-hours service at the new Tameside walk-in centre, may I say how massively convenient it is now that my local GP services are operating extended hours? However, what more is being done for patients of GPs who are not yet offering that provision?

Mr. O'Brien: My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to do more to ensure that extended hours are offered. We intend to give patients a right to register with a practice of their choice-perhaps one that offers extended hours. Furthermore, neighbouring doctors can apply to be paid for seeing patients of practices that do not offer extended hours. The Government's extended hours policy has been an increasing success-but of course if the Tories are elected, they will get rid of it.

Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): This is an issue of great concern to my constituents. I note the Minister's response to the previous question, but is he confident that the full range of GP services, such as pharmacies and access to a nurse, are available during weekend and extended hours in south-east London?

Mr. O'Brien: We are increasingly moving towards getting a larger range of services, particularly for GPs. Levels of nursing and pharmacy services vary between practices, but we want to ensure that we increase the number. However, when the hon. Gentleman stands on his party's manifesto, he will have to recognise that his party would get rid of those requirements: that appears to be its announced policy.

Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands) (Lab): What contribution are the new GP-led health centres making to greater access to GPs? In my own area, a new health centre is being built in Biddulph. It will be the first time that my constituents have had access to out-of-hours GP services in the evenings and at weekends.

Mr. O'Brien: The new GP-led health centres are providing a real incentive for practices that up to now have not offered extended hours. They can see that GP-led health centres are there, and that some patients will start to use them unless GPs start to offer the extended hours. GPs can also see that, with £161 million available in the coffers of PCTs, additional funding is available for GP practices that offer extended hours.

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NHS (Charitable Funding)

8. Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): What his estimate is of the amount of charitable giving to NHS institutions in the latest period for which information is available. [310023]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope): In 2008-09, NHS trusts and primary care trusts in England received contributions from all charitable sources totalling £62 million in expenditure and £65 million in fixed assets. The Department does not collect that information for NHS foundation trusts, which report directly to Monitor.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Is the Minister aware that the Burnham-on-Sea memorial hospital extension was funded by its magnificent league of friends, and that that form of local charitable giving would be betrayed if it were regarded as part of the general NHS budget and used by the Government to make offsetting reductions in the funding for the NHS trust concerned? Will the Government give an absolute assurance that such a change, which is being considered, will not happen?

Phil Hope: I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the case, and never will be.

Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East) (Lab/Co-op): And never has been.

Phil Hope: Indeed, as my hon. Friend says, it never has been the case.

Charity trustees will continue to have full responsibility for charitable funds; they are not, and will not be, part of NHS budgets. There is a question about accounting requirements-I think that that is what the right hon. Gentleman was referring to-but that is not a matter of Department of Health jurisdiction. However, I continue to work with the Treasury, Monitor, the Charity Commission and other stakeholders to seek ways of strengthening the independent governance of NHS charities, to ensure that we meet that standard without invoking the requirement for consolidation, and that matter is currently under discussion.

Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab): What are the latest figures for charitable giving to the Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust? If my hon. Friend does not have those figures to hand, may I, through him, pass on an invitation from the hospital to our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State? The hospital invites the Secretary of State to visit it so that, on his way to Goodison Park, he can see for himself the tremendous contribution that charitable giving makes to the new hospital that will be built with funds from the £1.2 billion committed by this Government to Merseyside for new hospitals.

Phil Hope: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that charitable giving makes a huge difference. Many people who have experience of the national health service want as a result to make a gift or donation to thank it for the support and care it has given them, or a loved one. Many charities work closely with NHS institutions and NHS charities. This is a cause for celebration, and I want to make it clear today how much we value that, and that that independence is absolutely right. There is no question whatever that
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charitable funds could be used as part of NHS budgets; I want that very important message to go out from the House today.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): But the Minister will be aware that this question is causing enormous concern. Why has the confusion been allowed to continue for so long, given that the Charity Commission alerted the Treasury and the Department of Health to the problem in August 2008? The Charity Commission has made it clear that such an arrangement is not necessary or appropriate for charities in the state sector. The accounting rules concerned apply in the private sector. Why can we not rule it out once and for all?

Phil Hope: As I hope I have already suggested, we are actively looking into the dilemma that the hon. Gentleman describes, and I hope that he and all other Members of this House, as well as charities and the NHS, will join me in ensuring that we do not spread confusion and mislead people about the consequences of looking at those accounting standards. Let us be absolutely clear: we very much welcome people making contributions through charities to support those receiving health services. The role of NHS charities is crucial. Only one in 10 NHS charities are even affected by this possible accountancy change. It makes no difference to the NHS; it is not part of the NHS. I would hope that the hon. Gentleman would join me in ensuring that we put the record straight, and do not mislead or misguide people and deter them in any way from making such contributions.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): My local hospital-the wonderful Chorley hospital-is part of the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Why can we not ask for information, but our question has to go to Monitor instead? Surely, as a Member of Parliament, I should have the same rights as other MPs in being able to ask questions for Ministers to answer. Does the Minister not agree?

Phil Hope: My view is that Members of Parliament can ask Monitor for information, and can receive that information. I think that is entirely appropriate, and I would encourage Members who have questions they want to ask of Monitor to put them with the usual vigour with which they put question to Ministers here at the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury) (Con): Despite the answers that the Minister has just given-this is of particular relevance to those of us who are trustees of charities and are finding that this problem is exercising us a lot in respect of our various fiduciary duties-the Government are still allowing there to be a risk of charitable donations being subsumed into hospital accounts. When people give to charity, they expect that money to be for extra things, rather than for those that are part of the established costs in the NHS budget. Will the Minister give an absolute guarantee that under the Treasury's new rules there will be no danger whatever of money given to charity being counted as part of the NHS budget, and that there will be no resultant offsetting?

Phil Hope: The short answer is yes. The long answer is that NHS charities are not part of the NHS, have never been part of the NHS and, under this Government, never will be part of the NHS. They are independent bodies, governed by an independent regulator, doing
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fantastic work in providing fantastic services. I hope that the hon. Gentleman-and the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats-will stop putting out misleading information, and instead will reinforce the fact that NHS charities remain independent.

GP Telephone Numbers

9. Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): What recent guidance his Department has issued to GP practices on their use of 0844 telephone number systems; and if he will make a statement. [310024]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): The Department issued guidance and directions to the NHS in England on 21 December, just before Christmas, that patients should not be expected to pay more than the cost of a local call to contact the NHS, including doctors' surgeries. GPs will have this year to end the practice completely and get out of any contracts that cause that to happen.

Mr. Robertson: I thank the Minister for that response, but he will be aware that the practice is continuing. He says that it must end this year, but there is an awful lot of this year left, so when does he expect the practice to end? Not only does it make it expensive for people to call their local general practitioner, but older people in particular often prefer a human being to answer the phone, rather than be responded to by a machine.

Mr. O'Brien: I agree that we need to ensure that this practice of some GPs charging more than a local rate for contact ends as quickly as possible. We have made it absolutely clear to GPs that they must get out of these contracts-a number of practices have signed up to and are legally bound by them-and they have the year to do so. We have engaged with some of the companies involved and, to be fair to them, they have said they are prepared to negotiate equitable arrangements with the GPs to see whether we can get them all out of this as soon as possible. They have all got to be out by 21 December, but we want them to be out now, or as soon as they possibly can be.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): This situation is not just in the hands of GPs; the provider that the patient is using is also ripping them off. For instance, when someone phones a GP's surgery on an 0845 number from a call box, the charges will be over the top, and people will still be charged even on the new 0300 numbers. Will the Minister examine why these patients are still being ripped off by their providers, as well as by GPs?

Mr. O'Brien: Our objective is to ensure that anyone trying to contact the NHS locally pays a local rate, and we need to ensure that such practice is adopted. If the hon. Gentleman has evidence to suggest that particular issues are arising, I would be happy to discuss them with him.

Alternative Medicine

10. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): When he expects to publish his proposals for the regulation of practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and
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traditional Chinese medicine, following his Department's consultation on the matter; and if he will make a statement. [310025]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): More than 6,000 responses to the consultation, which closed on 16 November, have been received and are being analysed. Our response will be published as soon as possible.

David Tredinnick: This has been going on since 2004, so surely the Department can give us a date. Is the Minister aware that the Northern college of traditional Chinese medicine, which is in its 21st year, has had its university accreditation withdrawn by the university of Central Lancashire because there is no statutory regulation of this sphere? That is the fault of Ministers and something needs to be done-they need to get on with it.

Gillian Merron: I understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration with the amount of time that has been taken, but I know that he also understands that any regulation would need to be balanced and proportionate. These are complex issues and we want to get this right. I assure the House that Ministers are keen to see publication as soon as possible.

Purley Hospital

11. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): When he expects redevelopment of Purley hospital to take place. [310026]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Croydon primary care trust and the Mayday Healthcare NHS Trust are firmly committed to the redevelopment of Purley hospital. It is for those organisations to determine a timetable, and both have assured me that they will seek to keep the hon. Gentleman informed of the progress. I understand that he had recent meetings with at least one of them.

Richard Ottaway: I would have thought that the Minister would include a degree of humility and an apology in his answer. It is eight years since his predecessor stood at that Dispatch Box promising a new hospital in Purley. We are in desperate need of services in the south of our borough, so will he please give orders straight away to get on with this development and do so in such a way as to ensure that if there is a change of Government in a few months' time, the orders will stand and the development will still go ahead?

Mr. O'Brien: I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman is anxious to avoid there being a change of Government, because we know that the new announced policy of his party may well mean that he will not get his hospital-I understand his concern.

I shall now deal with the specific point about Purley hospital. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it was to be developed by a private sector company called Translloyd, but as it was unable to get a retail developer on to the site, the original plan was declared to be no longer feasible. Translloyd still owns the site and Croydon council is trying to find ways to release it for development. As he knows, the problems arose in 2008.

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