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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that there will be no rationing of cancer services for elderly patients? There have been rumours that elderly men with prostate cancer do not always receive treatment for their condition as readily as younger people. Will the Minister give an assurance that does not, and will not, occur?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are three pilot programmes examining the feasibility, evidence and outcomes of extending the programme in the way suggested by the noble Lord. When we have evaluated the outcome of the pilot schemes, we shall look to the financial consequences.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords. We are concerned to improve the health outcomes of prisoners, whether in mental health or other areas of the health spectrum. There is--dare I say it?--a task force in existence which is looking at how the situation can be improved. The main component is that the National Health Service is making itself available to work in partnership with the Prison Service. Mental health services will form an important part of that process.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: First, my Lords, we should take the report of the HFMA with a great deal of caution, bearing in mind its wildly exaggerated figures for the cumulative deficit of the NHS. There are some NHS trusts that are presently facing financial pressures. However, the noble Earl will know that we recently announced an injection of £134 million in-year to the NHS, specifically to meet some of the costs arising from the increase in generic drugs and, centrally, to cover the increasing cost of clinical negligence. That will be an enormous help.
Lord Colwyn: My Lords, does the Minister agree that while the costs of treatment of cancer, heart disease and mental illness have increased, the positive results have declined? Is not the time now ripe for the Government to allocate serious funding for major systems of complementary medicine whose target is prevention?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree with the first part of the noble Lord's question. We are concerned to ensure that the outcomes of treatment are as positive as they can be. The development of national service frameworks, the work of the National Institute of Clinical Effectiveness and the Commission for Health Improvement is all designed, alongside local clinical governance, to improve outcomes.
As for complementary medicine, I recognise that many people find it of value. I also understand that in addition to that which is available within the private sector, many parts of the NHS are able to provide complementary medicine to NHS patients.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, my noble friend's question was directed towards resources. He subsequently mentioned the well attested lack of about 500 consultants in the cancer field. What strategies exist for correcting that loss? How long will it take and what resources will be required?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, there are 400 prospective consultants in the range of services that would be encompassed by cancer services coming through the system. Of course, workforce issues are important, not only in relation to consultants but also in relation to nurses, radiographers and other support services. Professor Mike Richards, who has taken on the job of leading our development of cancer services, is taking it as one of his major priorities and the results of his work will then be fed into our workforce planning mechanisms.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, much of the resource I mentioned has come within the comprehensive spending review allocation. But the House needs to recognise that that comprehensive spending review allocation brought the NHS considerable amounts of new resources. Over the period of the comprehensive spending review, we are giving the NHS 4.9 per cent real growth. I contrast that with the last five years of the previous administration which managed only 2.7 per cent.
The noble Lord said: Before I speak to this amendment, I wish to have a mild grumble about the lack of information we will have from the Government to enable us to look at the amendments to the Bill. The position is that the Minister made the statement of compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights on the face of the Bill, as is required by Section 19 of the Human Rights Act. From time to time, on all sides of the House, we have sought to develop a practice whereby we obtain Ministers' reasons for their compatibility statements so that when we legislate we are clear that there will be proper compliance with the relevant convention rights.
I wrote to the Minister before Christmas asking whether we could be provided with that kind of information by 4th January. I was told that there was no prospect of it because of Christmas and overwork. That is fair enough and I perfectly understand the administrative problems of the Home Office. However, the position is that we do not have anything like the kind of reasons from the Government to enable us, when we legislate, to be satisfied that the Human Rights Act is being properly complied with.
In order to try to extract their reasons from the Government, what I have done is to place a note--I am afraid it is a lawyer's note--on the legal concept of indirect discrimination in the Library. It is also in the
Last night, I bleated about all that in the debate on the Unstarred Question of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, pointing out that we would reach the stage today, unless the Government produced reasons, where we would not be properly informed. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, kindly handed me a piece of paper of his own speaking notes on the subject. I shall not take the Committee's time by reading it out but it does not adequately deal with the issues I have raised. I begin with that and it will run through our debate because from time to time on some amendments issues will arise as to whether what the Government propose to do is compatible with the guarantee of non-discrimination in the Convention on Human Rights, the right of access to the courts in Article 6 of the convention and the right to an effective remedy under Article 13.
The Earl of Onslow: I intervene solely to assist the noble Lord. Would it not be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, could say why he has not produced the information, or why his department has not done so? Had they wanted to, undoubtedly they could have. It strikes me that this is a treatment of Parliament which is not satisfactory.
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