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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, what number of patients in general are suffering from hepatitis C; and is adequate treatment being offered to them, whether or not they are haemophiliacs?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the current information I have is that the prevalence of chronic hepatitis C infection may be around 0.4 per cent of the general population: that is about 200,000 people in England. Therapies are available for treatment, most notably the combination therapy interferon alpha with Ribavirin. There is also a combination treatment which includes pegolated interferon, which is currently being reviewed by NICE. There is also currently a clinical trial assessing treatment for mild disease. That is due to report later in the year.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I am sorry to take up the time of the House, but I do not follow why the National Health Service has the principle of no compensation unless there is fault; whereas, every

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year, millions of pounds are handed out to victims of criminal activity—to those who are injured by criminals. In that situation, there is no fault on the part of the Government; in fact, many would say that there is no moral obligation. In this case, there is a strong moral obligation because the NHS has caused the trouble. Will the Minister please explain whether there is some special rule for the NHS; and, if so, what is its justification?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has raised this matter on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House. I believe that the cases are very different and they have been recognised as such both by this Government and by the previous government. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme makes payments to victims of violent crime. The scheme recognises society's sympathy with the victims of such deliberate and malicious acts of violence. I believe that those circumstances are very different from the circumstances in which the NHS provides treatment to patients.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, following on from the previous question, I understood my noble friend to refer to the issue of "fault". Given that, as the Question says, people have been infected,

    "by contaminated National Health Service blood products",

will the Minister express more clearly how the National Health Service can say that there is no fault when its product has caused the complaint?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it was possible to eliminate hepatitis C from blood products only in 1985, when heat treatment was introduced. The cases that we are discussing, in which people were infected through blood products, relate to people who were infected before that date.

NHS: Mixed-Sex Wards

3 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether mixed-sex wards have now been phased out in all National Health Service hospitals.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, 98 per cent of NHS trusts provide single-sex sleeping accommodation for planned admissions; 95 per cent of NHS trusts meet the additional criteria set for mental health facilities; and 93 per cent of NHS trusts provide properly segregated bathroom and toilet facilities for men and women. A further 2 per cent of NHS trusts have works under way to deliver the required standard, affecting 32 wards, which will be completed by the end of the financial year. Overall, 98 per cent of NHS wards meet our guidelines. The remainder will comply once current PFI and other building projects are completed.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I believe that the Government

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have done their level best to meet their manifesto commitments and, indeed, commitments to this House and another place to eradicate mixed-sex wards from the National Health Service. Is the Minister aware, however, that some cases of which I have heard suggest that some National Health Service hospitals do not share his, and the Government's, enthusiasm? That was illustrated by the case of our late colleague, Lady Young, who was treated in a mixed-sex ward and found it a very traumatic experience indeed.

I ask the Minister to keep on with this matter and ensure that progress is maintained and there is no slippage in what the Government obviously intend should be the policy.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I well understand the concern that members of the public have had, as patients, about having to be treated in mixed-sex accommodation. That is why the Government embarked on the strategy to remove mixed-sex accommodation from the NHS as much as possible. We have made considerable progress. There are a limited number of accommodation areas on which further progress still needs to be made, and we shall redouble our efforts to ensure that that happens.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister consider wards that consist of a number of small bedrooms with a few beds in them, some of which contain women and some of which contain men—in other words, a room full of women and a room full of men—to be mixed-sex wards? Is he referring only to Nightingale wards? Does he share the concern of many about the safety of women in mixed-sex wards, even when they are of the first type that I described—namely, a ward subdivided into smaller rooms?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I understand that there are sometimes safety concerns within NHS institutions and hospitals. We encourage the NHS to have a clear concern about ensuring that we have the right measures to secure safe provision for patients. As for definitions, it is acceptable for segregation to be achieved in wards that accommodate both men and women through the use of single-sex bays and individual rooms.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, the Minister talks about percentages. Will he tell us what that means in terms of numbers of patients?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I cannot tell the noble Baroness what it means in terms of numbers of patients. In terms of ward numbers, however, there are an estimated 10,000 general wards in use across the NHS of which more than 98 per cent comply with single-sex accommodation guidelines. I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, would wish us to inquire, through no doubt very bureaucratic processes, for the figures that the noble Baroness wishes to see.

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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I cannot rise to that challenge. I only wish that I could shower the Minister's department with compliments. I am very disappointed that I cannot.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am ever mindful of the strictures of the noble Lord. He will be pleased to know that I now head a task force in the Department of Health to reduce bureaucracy in the NHS.

Public Services (Disruption) Bill [HL]

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House.—(Lord Campbell of Alloway.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Licensing Bill [HL]

3.6 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 7 [Exercise and delegation of functions]:

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 121:

    Page 5, line 5, at end insert—

"( ) Where a licensing committee receives licensing applications which involve its own local authority, it shall refer such cases to a magistrates' court for determination."

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 121 relates to Clause 7, which in turn relates to the exercise and delegation of functions of the licensing authority. Members of the Committee will recall that central to the Bill is the transfer of alcohol licensing from the magistrates to the local authority. Therefore, the Bill currently gives rise to a potential conflict of interest.

Many, most or, perhaps, all local authorities will need to have some form of licensing, because they will run sports clubs with bars, theatres, amusement arcades or social clubs. They will have a range of activities that fall within the range of the Bill. Under the current provisions of the Bill, they will be judge and jury of their own affairs, through their licensing authority. The judgment on whether it is proper for a local authority's sports club to have a liquor licence will be made by that local authority. Currently, that is not a problem because the licensing magistrates, who

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are separate from the local authority, make the decision, but that separation will no longer take place when the Bill is enacted.

The conflict of interest is surely not fair and is certainly not transparent. There is a perfectly easy way out of the situation, however. We could make a special case for those applications that concern the local authority by requiring the licensing justices and the magistrates' court to determine those licences alone. In those circumstances, the local authority's case could be heard by someone who was not connected to, or part of, that authority. In that way, fairness and transparency could be maintained. I beg to move.

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