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Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The information requested is not collected centrally.

A pregnancy may be terminated only if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith that an abortion is justified within the terms of the Abortion Act, in the light of their clinical judgment of all the particular circumstances of the individual case.

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The information requested is not collected centrally.

If an abnormality is diagnosed, a termination may be raised as one of the options available if two medical practitioners are of the opinion that there are grounds for a termination under the Abortion Act 1967.

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is the Government's policy to promote the equal rights of disabled people. Equality, fair treatment and social inclusion lie at the heart of the Government's plans to modernise public services. The NHS Plan recognises that we live in a diverse society and sets out as core principles that the NHS will shape its services around the needs of the patient; be responsive to the needs of different groups and individuals within society; and challenge discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability and sexuality.

Shifting the Balance of Power within the NHS entails supporting front-line staff to better respond to the needs of all sections of the community and delivering more responsive high quality services to all.

The Human Rights Act 1998 brings the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic legislation. Article 2 of that convention protects the right to life and make no distinction between people who do or do not have disabilities. The Government consider that the 1967 Abortion Act, as amended, to

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be in compliance with Article 2 and the Human Rights Act. Under English law a foetus is not recognised as being a separate person from its mother, and does not have legal rights.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' guideline Termination of Pregnancy for fetal abnormality (1996) indicates the importance of offering parents information about all of the options available to them. This should include the implications of continuing the pregnancy as well as the implications of termination. The guideline states that if an abnormality has been detected and two medical practitioners are of the opinion that there are grounds for a termination under the Abortion Act, the woman should be advised that she has this option. The guideline also states that the woman needs to be given enough information and time to help her understand the nature of the foetal abnormality and the probable outcome of the pregnancy in order that she can make an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy.

Lord McColl of Dulwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of selective reduction abortions in each of the last five years for which figures are available. [HL4104]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The information requested is in the table.

Legal abortions - selective termination, England & Wales, 1996–2000

Number of cases

Source: Department of Health, Statistics Division 2B

Footnote: The data refer to residents only

Lord McColl of Dulwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they require doctors performing selective reduction of pregnancies to require a certificate stating the grounds for termination of unborn babies under the Abortion Act 1967.[HL4105]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Section 37 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 amended the Abortion Act 1967 to make it clear that selective termination of pregnancy (termination of one or more, but not all, foetuses in a multiple pregnancy) may be performed if the requirements of the 1967 Act are fulfilled, but not otherwise. Notification of such abortions to the Chief Medical Officer has been required since 1 April 1991.

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Two registered medical practitioners have to complete a certificate of opinion stating which grounds of the Act are fulfilled before the termination can take place.

Lord McColl of Dulwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total number of abortions performed since 1968; how many were to save the life of the mother; and what percentage this represents of the total.[HL4106]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The number of abortions performed in England and Wales on residents of England and Wales in the years 1968 to 2000 was 4.38 million. Of these 39,400, representing 0.9 per cent of the total, were performed under sections 1(1)(c) and 1(4) of the Abortion Act 1967. These are cases where the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated or where the termination is immediately necessary to save the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant women.

Birth Defects

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 10 April (WA 99), why, in the light of the reported increase of birth defects attributable to the use of recreational drugs by young mothers and an increase in oestrogen-like substances in the diet, data are not collected centrally; and whether they have any plans to revise this policy.[HL3805]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Office for National Statistics collects information on live born babies and stillbirths with congenital anomalies through the National Congenital Anomaly System (NCAS). Reporting to NCAS is voluntary and notifications are sent by regions where there are local registers or by National Health Service trusts. NCAS does not collect information on drug usage in pregnancy. The Department of Health will consider evidence which suggests a casual factor for birth defects.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is aware of concerns regarding consumption of plant-based foods containing naturally occurring estrogen-like chemicals, known as phytoestrogens. A study published in 2000 suggested the incidence of hypospadias (an abnormality of the male genitals) was higher in babies of mothers who follow a vegetarian diet. The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) reviewed the study but concluded there was insufficient evidence to support this hypothesis.

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The FSA is currently funding a large programme of research to investigate the pubic health implications of phytoestrogens. Additionally, at the request of the FSA, an expert group of the COT is reviewing the health implications of phytoestrogens. The group aims to publish a report of their findings in the autumn this year (2002).

Food Imports

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept that some food imported into the United Kingdom is produced to lesser standards than required of United Kingdom farmers; and whether they will consider (a) demanding stricter labelling and greater information on the food product or (b) banning such products.[HL3902]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Food imported into the United Kingdom must meet food safety standards at least equivalent to those required of UK producers. Banning imports produced to these standards is illegal under the Treaty of Rome and World Trade Organisation rules.

The Government are in favour of positive labelling to highlight the advantages of high British standards, for example of animal welfare. The Food Standards Agency is taking the lead in pressing for changes to European labelling rules to require country of origin labelling on a wider range of foods, particularly meat products. It is also pressing for changes that would prevent misleading labelling by restricting the use of terms like "product of . . ." to those foods where the main ingredients come from, and production processes occur in, the named place or country.

NHS: Workforce Information

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the National Health Service at the end of fiscal years 1996–97 and 2001–02, what was the number, actual or estimated, of (a) all employees; (b) doctors; (c) nurses; (d) other medical staff; (e) ancillary staff; and (f) other designated groups.[HL3986]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Workforce information is collected annually on 30 September. The latest date for which information is available is 30 September 2001.

Between September 1997 and September 2001 the number of consultants increased by 4,320 (20 per cent) and the number of nurses by 31,520 (10 per cent).

NHS Hospital and Community Health Services (HCHS) and General Practice staff: All NHS staff as at 30 September each year Headcount

Total excluding GP retainers(1)1,056,5001,058,6901,117,8401,166,020
All doctors86,58089,62097,440100,320
All doctors excluding retainers86,58089,62096,32099,170
of which hospital medical consultants19,22020,20023,04024,400
Registrar group11,38011,91012,73013,220
of which hospital medical registrar group10,84011,36012,16012,650
Other doctors in training18,64019,55020,27020,690
of which hospital medical doctors in training16,99017,92018,69019,070
Hospital practitioners and clinical assistants(2)6,7406,6105,6205,360
Other hospital medical staff3,3303,7805,8606,360
Other medical and dental staff3,8203,6202,9002,530
GMPs excluding retainers29,12029,39030,25030,680
Unrestricted principals and equivalents26,86027,10027,70027,840
Other practitioners(3)960950890960
GP registrars1,3001,3401,6601,880
GP retainers. .. .1,1201,150
Qualified Nurses319,150318,860335,950350,380
HCHS qualified nurses301,250300,470316,750330,540
Practice nurses(4)17,90018,39019,20019,850
Qualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff94,32096,300105,910110,240
of which: qualified Allied Health Professionals(5)43,91045,02049,36051,320
Other staff556,450553,910579,660606,220
HCHS unqualified nursing staff(6)137,630140,940153,590163,190
Unqualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff24,33024,34026,59028,810
Management and support staff(7)315,010306,970316,410329,750
Practice staff other than nurses(8)79,48081,66083,07084,470


(1) Figures for GP retainers were first collected in 1999. They are excluded from this total so that figures are comparable across years.

(2) Most of these doctors also work as GPs. To avoid double counting, medical hospital practitioners and medical clinical assistants are not included in the All Doctors total.

(3) Other Practitioners include Assistants, Restricted Principals, Salaried Doctors (para 52 SFA) and PMS Other GPs.

(4) Practice nurse headcount information was estimated in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998 and 1999. Underlying figures for 2000 suggest the practice nurse figure may be an overestimate.

(5) Allied Health Professionals are qualified staff from chiropody, dietetics, occupational therapy, orthoptics/optics, physiotherapy, radiography and art/music/drama therapy occupational codes.

(6) Includes Healthcare Assistants and learners (but excludes nurses in training).

(7) Includes ambulance staff, administrative & estates staff, support and other staff.

(8) Includes Direct Patient Care, Admin & Clerical and Other.

Figures are rounded to the nearest 10.

Due to rounding totals may not equal the sum of component parts.

. . Not applicable.


Department of Health Non-Medical Workforce Census.

Department of Health Medical and Dental Workforce Census.

Department of Health General and Personal Medical Services Statistics.

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