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Equal Opportunities

Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he has taken to promote equality between (a) older people, (b) disabled people, (c) ethnic minorities, (d) religious minorities, (e) women and (f) gay and lesbian people, and the rest of the population in each case, with respect to the services and employment overseen by his Department. [142515]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 14 December 2000]: As an equal opportunities employer, the Department is committed to fairness and equality of opportunity for all in employment, and advancement on the basis of suitability. The Department's equal opportunities statement requires that no eligible job applicant should receive less favourable treatment on the grounds of age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religion or religious affiliation or because they work part-time.

As an employer we aim to develop the Department into an organisation that values the diversity of its staff and enables all to realise their potential by valuing the contribution of all and recognising the positive benefits that difference can bring.

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We have also made it clear that there is no place for discrimination or harassment in the National Health Service on grounds of age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, race or ethnicity or religion. The NHS Plan explicitly states that every member of staff in the NHS is entitled to work in an organisation that is committed to improving diversity and tackling racial discrimination and harassment. The NHS work force must reflect the population it serves in order to deliver sensitive and appropriate services.

A number of measures are in hand in both the Department and the NHS which have the aim of further promoting fair and equal treatment of all staff. These include improving recruitment and retention of black and ethnic minority staff, and also widening employment opportunities for disabled people; and targets have been set for measuring success in both areas. The Department is also following the Department for Education and Employment voluntary Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment and NHS employers are being encouraged to do the same.

In respect of all the services that this Department oversees or provides, we aim to ensure that all our policies, programmes and services are taken forward in line with the joint-departmental guidelines, "Policy Appraisal for Equal Treatment", issued in 1998.

Statins

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the (a) actual and (b) target figure for the percentage of people with a history of coronary heart disease prescribed statins in 2000. [142942]

Yvette Cooper: The National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) sets the standard that all people with established cardiovascular disease or a past history of CHD should be identified and offered comprehensive advice and appropriate treatment to reduce their risks. Effective interventions include the prescription of statins and dietary advice to reduce the level of cholesterol.

At present the exact percentage of people with a history of CHD who are currently receiving statins is not known. However, the percentage of people in the priority groups for lipid-lowering drugs--those who have had a heart attack and those with angina--is estimated at 4.8 per cent. of the population aged 35 to 69. The NSF sets a milestone of April 2003 for primary care teams to keep clinical audit data which will enable them to provide data on the number and proportion of their patients with recognised CHD, or at high risk of developing it, and the advice offered about appropriate interventions to reduce risk. This will include data on these patients' cholesterol levels and the advice and treatment offered to them.

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is on the availability of the statin class of drugs on the National Health Service to those with a high cholesterol rate but no history of coronary heart disease. [142940]

Yvette Cooper: The National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) sets out the approach to be taken for people at high risk of CHD--those with symptoms of heart disease or other arterial disease, or who exhibit multiple risk factors. Identifying and treating

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people at greatest risk is one of the highest priorities of the National Service Framework. Chapter Two includes advice on the prescription of statins to eligible patients, and sets a practical threshold of risk that will target resources at those in greatest need.

Our first priority is to treat those with established cardiovascular disease. The next step, and a high priority for the NSF, is the treatment of those without diagnosed CHD or other cardiovascular disease but whose risk of a cardiac event--their CHD risk--is greater than 30 per cent. over 10 years. This is consistent with the guidance already issued to the NHS by the Standing Medical Advisory Committee and with the Joint British Society guidelines published in the British Medical Journal.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which Government Departments (a) carry out and (b) fund procedures licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. [142408]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Licence authorities to carry out scientific procedures under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 are held by 11 Government establishments, undertaking work on issues including the management and conservation of fish stocks, the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of agricultural animals and the safety testing of vaccines. A number of other establishments licensed under the 1986 Act with executive agency, non-departmental public body and research council status also have links with Government Departments. The parent and associated Government Departments for these two groups of licensed establishments include the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Scottish Executive.

The Home Department does not hold detailed information centrally on the sources of funding for research programmes licensed under the 1986 Act. The Home Department liaises with a number of grant awarding bodies on issues relating to the licensing of scientific research under the 1986 Act. Government Departments which may fund such research directly or indirectly include the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish Executive.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps his Department is taking to explain to the public the criteria used to license scientific procedures under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; [142410]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain (1999: Cm 4841) are published annually and explain the system of control in detail in Appendix A.

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The Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (HC321) provides information on the main provisions of the Act, the cost/benefit assessment of applications for authority to use animals in scientific procedures, the ethical review process and how the Act is administered and enforced.

A detailed paper on the cost/benefit assessment is included in the annual report of the Animal Procedures Committee 1997. The Committee's annual reports contain information on immediate operational matters, wider aspects of the general and current working of the Act and longer term issues relating to the use of animals.

The Animal Procedures Committee will announce a public consultation on 15 December 2000 as part of its review of the cost/benefit assessment. As part of this work, the Committee plans to produce an authoritative statement on the validity of animal experiments and to report in the summer of 2001.

In January 2000, the Openness Working Group of the Animal Procedures Committee sought the views of interested individuals and bodies on the openness issues relating to the licensing of scientific research under the 1986 Act. I expect to receive its report shortly.

Immigration Appeals

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason the refusal notices and appeal forms stemming from the Immigration Appeals (Family Visitor) Regulations make no reference to legal aid; and if he will make a statement. [142241]

Mrs. Roche: The notice of refusal to issue entry clearance to a family visitor does not make reference to the possibility of funding from the Legal Services Commission. We are urgently considering ways of providing suitable advice.

Staff Sickness

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the average rate of staff sickness in terms of working days per person in the period since 1 April. [142444]

Mr. Straw: The latest available information shows that the average number of working days lost owing to sickness absence between 1 April and 31 October is 3.37 working days in the Home Department and its agencies (excluding the Prison Service); and 7.89 days in the Prison Service.

This equates to an annual rate of 7.58 working days in the Home Department and its agencies (excluding the Prison Service); and 13.53 days in the Prison Service.

Because of the way the sickness absence data are collated some of the more recent absences may not have reached the centralised recording system as yet.

The Home Department and its agencies have introduced new guidelines, policies and procedures with a view to reducing sickness absence in the Department.

The Department's Service Delivery Targets for April 2001 to March 2004, which include a target for reducing sickness absence, were published on Friday, 3 November, and are available on the Home Office website

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www.homeoffice.gov.uk/pfd/sda2000.htm. The targets to reduce sickness absence, and sustain this improvement thereafter, are:




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