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Prescribed Drugs

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent studies he has commissioned in respect of the number of persons suffering side effects from prescribed drugs; and if he will make a statement; [56015]

Ms Blears [holding answer 14 May 2002]: A recent pilot study conducted in Liverpool has investigated the frequency of adverse drug reaction-related hospital admissions. The findings of this study suggest that the proportion of such reactions has not altered significantly in the last decade; that is, around 5.5 per cent. of all hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions

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(ADRs). A follow-up study is anticipated which should identify areas in which prescribing issues and practices should be addressed in order to reduce the incidence of ADRs in the United Kingdom.

The ADRs observed during the pilot study were subsequently submitted via the Yellow Card Scheme to the Medicines Control Agency, which is responsible for monitoring the safety of all marketed medicines to ensure that medicines meet acceptable standards of safety and efficacy. Spontaneous reporting schemes, such as the UK's Yellow Card Scheme which has been in operation since 1964, are one of the primary tools used in monitoring drug safety and provide an 'early warning' of previously unrecognised drug safety hazards in association with medicines.

The Committee on Safety of Medicines/Medicines Control Agency receive reports of suspected ADRs from doctors, dentists, pharmacists and coroners and there is a legal requirement for companies to report suspected ADRs to their drugs. Approximately 18,000–19,000 suspected ADR reports are received each year via this scheme. The number of reports received via the Yellow Card Scheme does not directly equate to the number of people who suffer adverse reactions to drugs for a number of reasons, as this scheme is associated with an unknown level of under reporting. It is important to note that the reporting of a reaction does not necessarily mean it was caused by the drug and may relate to other factors such as the patient's underlying illness or other medicines taken concurrently.

Over the last 20 years, suspected ADRs submitted via the Yellow Card Scheme with a fatal outcome account for less than 3 per cent. of these reports. The Office for National Statistics also collates data on deaths certified by doctors and coroners as due to adverse effects of drugs in therapeutic use. The quality of these data may be inconsistent as many thousands of doctors write certificates with a wide variation in knowledge, training and practice. In 2000 a total of 159 deaths were certified as due to adverse effects of drugs in therapeutic use.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent studies he has commissioned relating to the health dangers from chronic low-level exposure to a mixture of pesticides; and if he will make a statement. [56020]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 14 May 2002]: The Food Standards Agency asked the Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) to critically review the science of mixtures of pesticides and veterinary medicines and consider the implications for the risk assessment process.

Part of the COT's consideration of this issue has been the compilation and review of information covering a wide number of areas, including scientific data on exposure to mixtures of pesticides. These are considered in detail in the report which will be published in July.

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Mid Essex Hospital Trust

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the level of delayed discharges in the Mid Essex Hospital Trust area was for the most recent period for which figures are available. [55740]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 14 May 2002]: Information on delayed discharges is collected centrally at health authority level. Service and financial framework

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data for delayed discharges in north Essex health authority for Quarter 3 2001–02 are in the Library.

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many vacancies there are in the Mid Essex Hospital Trust area for (a) nurses and (b) doctors. [55739]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 14 May 2002]: The information requested is shown in the table.

Department of Health vacancies survey, March 2001. Vacancies in NHS trusts by specific NHS trust, specified staff groups—3 month vacancy rates(36),(37) and numbers(38)

3 month vacancy rates (percentage)3 month vacanciesStaff in post (wte)Staff in post (hc)
All medical and dental staff1.50130160
All nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff1.5201,3301,730

(36) Three month vacancies are vacancies as at 31 March 2001 which trusts are actively trying to fill, which had lasted for three months or more (whole time equivalents).

(37) Three month vacancy rates are three month vacancies expressed as a percentage of three month vacancies pluss staff in post from the September 2000 medical and dental and non-medical workforce censuses (whole time equivalents).

(38) Vacancy and staff in post numbers are rounded to nearest 10.


1. Percentages are rounded to one decimal place.

2. Medical and dental figures exclude staff in training.

3. Due to rounding calculating the vacancy rates using the above data may not equal actual vacancy rates.


Department of Health Vacancies Survey 2001

Department of Health non-medical workforce census 2000

Department of Health medical and dental workforce census 2000

Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the latest calculation of the average waiting time at the accident and emergency department at Broomfield hospital, Chelmsford is; and what the equivalent figure was 12 months before. [55733]

Ms Blears [holding answer 14 May 2002]: The average waiting time in accident and emergency departments is not collected.

Prescription Charges

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list each prescription drug and medical appliance subject to multiple prescription charges; and if he will make a statement. [54366]

Ms Blears [holding answer 14 May 2002]: Tights supplied by hospitals (they are not prescribable by general practitioners) and pairs of elastic hosiery attract a double prescription charge. Otherwise one charge is payable for each type of appliance and each quantity of a drug supplied. This rule applies regardless of whether the different drugs or appliances are supplied in one pack or more. Examples of combination packs where more than one charge is payable are included in Part XVI of the Drug Tariff.

Children's Services

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the names and positions of the senior members of staff who from 1 April have responsibility for children's services in each strategic health authority, PCT and NHS trust. [56160]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 14 May 2002]: This information is not collected centrally. Strategic health authorities are responsible for ensuring that primary care and acute trusts have in place mechanisms to assure high quality service provision, such as those recommended as part of national documents or standards. Directors of health and social care have a role in overseeing the activities of strategic health authorities.

Sick Leave

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many days of sick leave were taken in his Department last year; how many related to employees suffering (a) stress and (b) other mental health problems; and what the cost was to his Department. [56481]

Ms Blears [holding answer 14 May 2002]: The latest annual report published by Cabinet Office "Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service—2000" shows that, in 2000, the Department's unadjusted average working day absence per staff year was 5.5, down from 6.6 in 1999. Figures for 2001 or later years are not yet published.

While the Department collects data on sickness absence, which includes stress, it is not possible to identify if the cause of the recorded 'stress related illness' was work related, or due to other work related mental health problems. It is not possible, therefore, to identify these costs.

The Department is committed to meeting its public sector agreement (PSA) target on reducing sickness absence as agreed with the Cabinet Office and Treasury,

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and has a number of procedures in place to help managers and staff to be aware of and to reduce work-related stress. The Department has:

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