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Government Services On-line: Functional Modules

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Functional modules allow common services to be provided to government departments, creating economies of scale benefits through a build once-use many philosopy. These modules themselves only provide functionality, such as secure mail or authentication, and do not themselves have a privacy implication.

These modules are constructed into services, such as the Government Gateway or All of these services have detailed privacy policies, require opt-in from users and are fully compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Public Bodies: Ministerial Appointments

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: All government departments are required to follow the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments' Code of Practice when processing public appointments which fall within the Commissioner's remit, as these bodies do. The code will therefore be followed when appointments to these bodies are made. The code of practice is designed to ensure that the appointment process is fair, transparent and open and commands public confidence. The code is underpinned by the seven principles arising from the recommendations of the First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Appointment on merit is the overriding consideration in the appointments process and care must be taken at every stage not to discriminate on the grounds of gender, race, age, disability, religion, marital status, sexual orientation or community background. Independent scrutiny is a mandatory element in every competition and this underwrites the integrity of the competition process. Independent assessors should always be used at the selection stage, which deals with the identification and selection of

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candidates and may be involved in earlier stages of the process.

NHS: Elecronic Patient Records

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the target date for the implementation of electronic patient records in England and Wales, Scotland and Norther Ireland.[HL6095]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The design and implementation of electronic patient records in England is provided for in Delivering 21st Century IT Support for the NHS, the updated information technology strategy for the National Health Service in England. This includes the introduction of Integrated Care Records Services (ICRS) which will enable all NHS organisations to have electronic records for all patients. The target date for full introduction of ICRS is 2008.

Information relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is a matter for the devolved administrations.

Morning-after Pill

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the finding of a study published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy in March that omitting to inform women of the potential pre-implantation effects of the morning-after pill on a newly-conceived embryo may result in inadequate informed consent.[HL6131]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The authors of this study use the term "early abortion" to refer to the prevention of a fertilised egg implanting in the womb. On 18 April this year, the High Court ruled that the prevention of implantation of a fertilised egg, which is brought about by emergency contraception products, does not amount to procuring a miscarriage under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The patient information leaflet supplied with the product gives clear information about the ways in which emergency contraception pills work. We therefore do not agree with the findings of this study.

Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the ruling of Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority applies to any areas of treatment, other than abortion and family planning services.[HL6136]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Following the case of Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority the courts have held that children who have sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable them to understand fully what is involved in a proposed intervention will also have the capacity to consent to that intervention. Only the courts can rule on the precise scope of the judgment. However, in the view of the Government it sets a general principle which would be applicable to consent for treatment in areas of treatment other than abortion and family planning services.

GPs: Conscientious Objection to Abortion

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a General Practitioner with a conscientious objection to abortion is still required to give advice to patients and perform the preparatory steps to arrange an abortion; and, if so, whether this is:

    (a) consistent with the original aims of the conscience clause included in the Abortion Act 1967; and

    (b) consistent with the advice provided by the Ministry of Health when Parliament was debating the conscience clause that such a clause was not necessary.[HL6139]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967, which was agreed on a free vote by both Houses, allows doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion not to participate in treatment. The scope of the clause was clarified by the House of Lords' decision in the case of Janaway v. Salford Health Authority in 1988, which stated that in order to claim conscientious exemption under Section 4 of the Act, the objector had to be required to take part in administering treatment in a hospital or approved centre. Practitioners cannot claim exemption from giving advice or performing the preparatory steps to arrange an abortion where the request meets legal requirements. If a general practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion, the patient should be advised and referred to another doctor if that is the patient's wish. Refusal to participate in the paperwork or administration connected with abortion procedures also lies outside the terms of the conscience clause.

The General Medical Council (GMC) booklet Good Medical Practice states that general practitioners' views about a patient's lifestyle or beliefs must not prejudice the treatment they provide or arrange. If they feel their beliefs might affect the treatment, this must be explained to the patient, who should be told of their right to see another doctor. Breach of this guidance may expose a doctor to a charge of serious professional misconduct and disciplinary action by the GMC. The British Medical Association has also issued guidance to its colleagues on this issue.

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NHS Spending: Primary Care Trusts

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish their estimates of the amount of National Health Service spending per head of population analysed by primary care trust for 2002–03.[HL6145]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Health authorities share their recurrent allocation between their constituent primary care trusts in line with guidance issued by the Department of Health.

Primary care trust shares of 2002–03 health authority recurrent allocations per head of population are shown in the table which has been placed in the Library.

NHS: EU Procurement Rules

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 22 July (WA 26), how many advertisements for international establishment projects have been placed in the Official Journal of the European Community to date.[HL6147]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Work is in hand, as part of the wider capacity planning process currently under way in the National Health Service, to identify a first set of schemes to offer to the market as part of the follow-up to the Growing Capacacity prospectus launched in June this year. We expect the first invitations to tender for these and other schemes to develop diversity of provision in elective surgery in England to be issued in the near future.

Primary Care Trust Patients' Forums

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the basis for their estimate of the number of staff that will be required by primary care trust patients' forums to enable them to carry out their statutory functions satisfactorily; and what roles are envisaged for such staff.[HL6150]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health's chair designate and her interim team, along with the Department of Health, are still considering potential structures for the organisation of and staffing levels for patients' forums. The assumptions assisting current discussions are around ensuring sufficient support for patients' forums members and effective delivery of the functions of both bodies. As yet no conclusions have been reached.

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Staff attached to primary care trust patients' forums will support the forums, undertake all their functions and will help them work together.

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