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7 Nov 2002 : Column 527W—continued

Diagnostic Testing

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning the cost of repeating diagnostic tests unnecessarily. [75752]

Ms Blears: We have not received any representations about the costs of repeating diagnostic tests for cancer patients. The cancer services collaborative is working in

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every cancer network to modernise cancer care by streamlining and redesigning the care pathway ensuring patients receive speedy diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer Care

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to (a) adopt on-call arrangements, (b) extend working hours during the week and (c) operate a 24-hour service for cancer services within the NHS; [75754]

Ms Blears: Commissioners and providers need to consider the needs of their population when planning services. This may involve access to some services out of normal working hours, such as general practitioner and community nurse advice, palliative care support and for some patients, access to other specialist advice.

To date, the Department has received no representations concerning cancer departments adopting on-call arrangements, extending working hours during the week and operating a 24 hour service for cancer services within the National Health Service.

Travel Assistance

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assistance is made available by each health authority to patients travelling for treatment. [75200]

Jaqui Smith: Where a patient has a medical need for transport as determined by the clinician in charge of their case, then transport should be provided free of charge, as part of National Health Service treatment. Where patients need financial assistance the hospital travel cost scheme has been established as part of the NHS low income scheme. This provides financial assistance to the patients who do not have a medical need for ambulance transport, but who nevertheless, require assistance in meeting the cost of travel to hospital for transport.

Spinal and Orthopaedic Surgeons

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of additional spinal and orthopaedic surgeons that will be needed within the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [77225]

Mr. Hutton: As at March 2002, there were 1,303 consultants in trauma and orthopaedic surgery. This represents an increase of 23 per cent. since September 1997.

The NHS Plan workforce numbers targets identify the staff needed to meet overall needs up until 2008. By this time, the latest forecasts for growth expect the National Health Service to have net increases over a 2001 baseline, of at least 15,000 doctors—consultants and GPs. This expectation is for total numbers of doctors and is not specialty-specific.

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The NHS is currently working on local delivery plans for a three-year period, which will identify the demand for additional trauma and orthopaedic consultants up until 2005–06. The NHS will continue to plan, for three-year periods, its future workforce requirements and steps will be taken to address the identified need.

We continually review future requirements for trained specialists as part of the NHS's new multi-disciplinary workforce planning processes. These will look at the requirements for doctors alongside other staff focusing on the potential for new ways of working and developing new roles.

Breast Cancer

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact of the patents on breast cancer genes owned by Myriad Inc on testing for hereditary breast cancer; and what negotiations his Department is involved in with Myriad on this issue. [77878]

Ms Blears: The Department is still in discussion with Myriad and the discussion is confidential at this stage.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is on objections made to the European patent office to the patents on breast cancer genes owned by Myriad Inc. [77877]

Ms Blears: A number of European genetics research institutes have filed objections in the European Patents Office (EPO). We await the outcome of the hearings before the EPO with interest.

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the target population for breast cancer screening was changed; and what percentage of the target population was screened in (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02 in (i) England, (ii) each NHS region and (iii) each health authority. [79799]

Ms Blears: The National Health Service breast screening programme has been inviting women aged 50–64 to be screened every three years. The NHS Plan, published in July 2000, announced the extension of the programme to women aged 65 to 70. This extension is being rolled out over the three year period from 2001–2004.

Data for 2000–01 are in the Department's statistical bulletin which is available in the Library. Data on the number of women screened between the age of 65 and 70 are not yet available as the extension began in 2001–02. Data for 2001–02 will be available in the Department's next statistical bulletin, which is due to be published early 2003.

MRI Scanner (Pembury Hospital)

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to announce whether to site a replacement permanent MRI scanner at Pembury hospital. [77559]

Ms Blears: At this time I cannot give the hon. Member any information on an announcement. I will write to him on this matter as soon as possible.

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Dental Services

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what further steps he plans to take to increase provision of NHS dental services in Lancashire; and if he will make a statement. [77937]

Jacqui Smith: In East Lancashire the Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Personal Dental Service has brought five whole time National Health Service dentists into the area together with a part-time dental therapist. The personal dental service (PDS) pilot provides NHS dental care for non-registered patients and for people finding difficulty in registering with a general dental practitioner. PDS pilots in the Preston, Blackpool and Chorley areas are also exploring new ways of providing NHS dentistry in their localities. A new NHS dental access centre will also open in Lancaster next year.

Three bids have also been made against the ''Options for Change'' funding to try and improve dental access and waiting times in Lancashire. A decision on these bids as well as other bids will be made in the near future.

Speech Therapy

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many children with severe learning difficulties received help from a speech therapist in each year from 1997 to 2001; [78369]

Jacqui Smith: Information on the number of children with severe learning difficulties who receive help from speech and language therapists (SLTs) is not collected centrally.

It is very important that children with speech and language difficulties access appropriate intervention as soon as a problem is identified. The majority of SLTs are employed by the National Health Service and deliver services relating to children's health need. They are often based in the community and may work in health, education or local authority settings.

No money was transferred from the Department of Health to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) specifically to provide speech therapy to children with learning difficulties. For the two years between 1999 and 2001, DfES made grant support available under the standards fund to a number of local education authorities for speech and language pilots.

This support was extended to all English local education authorities in 2001–02 to help them enhance speech and language therapy services for children in conjunction with the NHS and the voluntary sector. It is one of a number of sub heads on which LEAs can spend their special educational needs allocation.

Meningitis

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the measures to increase awareness of meningitis and their allocated funding have been for each year since 1997; [78945]

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Ms Blears: Since 1997, information about meningitis and septicaemia has been included in both the Guide to Childhood Immunisations and the Guide to Pre-school Immunisations. These leaflets are made available to all parents of every new baby and all parents of every preschool child. They are distributed largely via primary care and the Guide to Childhood Immunisations is given to all new parents by the health visitor at the ten day visit. More than one million of these leaflets are distributed, on an annual basis, in England.

The immunisation website www.immunisation.nhs.uk also contains information about meningitis and septicaemia.

A targeted campaign, Look out for your mate, has been running in all higher education establishments since 1995. The resources alert new students to the signs and symptoms or meningitis and septicaemia and suggest appropriate action. The cost of this work has been approximately #15,000 per annum. During the introduction of the MenC vaccine we worked closely with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service to ensure that all students had this important information.

In addition the Department also works with a number of meningitis charities, for example the meningitis research foundation, that produce guidance on the diagnosis and early management of meningococcal disease. This work is published as leaflets and information packs and is also available on the charities' web-sites.


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