Department of Health and Social Care

All 10 Written Questions max 10 shown

Date Title Questioner
24 Jan 2020, 2:48 p.m. Department of Health and Social Care: Climate Change Darren Jones

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the effect of climate change on the work of his Department; and what steps he is taking in response to that effect.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The Department has made assessments of the effect of climate change on the work of the Department in developing our commitments for the health and social care system within the National Adaptation Programme available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/climate-change-second-national-adaptation-programme-2018-to-2023

It has also developed a Departmental Sustainable Development Plan, which sets the ambition for the Department to embed sustainability in all policy development and includes our commitment to the ‘Greening Government Commitments’. This is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/greening-government-commitments

This Department works closely across Government to ensure that climate change policies also deliver associated benefits to public health where appropriate.

7 Jan 2020, 5:56 p.m. NHS: Amazon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government what monitoring arrangements in relation to (1) patient confidentiality, (2) intellectual property, and (3) other data, have been built into the agreement to share NHS health data with Amazon.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

The agreement between the Department and Amazon is clear that none of the data generated will be shared with third parties; that it will not be used for selling products or making product recommendations to Amazon users; nor is it building any form of health profiles on Amazon customers.

NHS Digital are working closely with Amazon to assess the effectiveness of the service. The algorithm used by Amazon is still learning and will be updated continuously to learn how people are asking questions about health conditions.

All information is treated with high confidentiality and Amazon use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption, and audits of our control environment to protect it. No Amazon employee has direct access to information that can identify the person or account, and Amazon have the appropriate measures in place to ensure General Data Protection Regulation compliance.

Patients already use Alexa and other devices to search for health information on a range of health issues. This agreement ensures that the information they receive from Alexa is medically verified by the National Health Service instead of from a range of other sources, such as non-United Kingdom websites.

This agreement is not exclusive. There are over 2,000 other organisations that are accessing and using information from the NHS website in a similar way.

7 Jan 2020, 5:55 p.m. NHS: Amazon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government what income they have received as a result of the agreement to share NHS data with Amazon.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

The service provided by Amazon connects people to medical information that is already freely available through the National Health Service website. Patients already use Alexa and other devices to search for information on a range of health issues. This agreement ensures that the information they receive from Alexa is medically verified by the NHS instead of from a range of other sources, such as non-United Kingdom websites.

The agreement signed between the Department and Amazon is designed to enable greater numbers of people to access information accredited by the NHS, helping to put people in control of their own healthcare. This agreement is not exclusive. There are over 2,000 other organisations that are accessing and using information from the NHS website in a similar way.

There is no cost to the taxpayer, nor have we received any income as a result of the agreement to share this freely available information from the NHS website with Amazon. This new service through Alexa will enable a greater number of people to access it and help them to manage their own healthcare.

7 Jan 2020, 5:55 p.m. NHS: Amazon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government what safeguards to protect (1) patient confidentiality, (2) intellectual property, (3) data, and (4) other materials, from inappropriate use have been built into the agreement to share NHS health data with Amazon.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

No patient data is being shared with Amazon as part of this agreement. The collaboration with Amazon simply connects people to information that is already freely available through the National Health Service website. Use of Amazon Alexa is an alternative mechanism for accessing that information. Patients already use Alexa and other devices to search for information on a range of health issues. This agreement ensures that the information they receive from Alexa is medically verified by the NHS instead of from a range of other sources, such as non-United Kingdom websites.

This agreement is not exclusive. There are over 2,000 other organisations that are accessing and using information from the NHS website in a similar way.

The agreement signed between the Department and Amazon is clear that none of the data generated through voice search using Alexa will be shared with third parties; that it will not be used for selling products or making product recommendations to Amazon users; nor is it building any form of health profiles on Amazon customers.

All information is treated with high confidentiality and Amazon use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption, and audits of our control environment to protect it. The information that Amazon collects is only used to train its speech recognition software and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand the requests of users and ensure the service works well for everyone. No Amazon employee has direct access to information that can identify the person or account, and Amazon have the appropriate measures in place to ensure General Data Protection Regulation compliance.

7 Jan 2020, 5:54 p.m. NHS: Amazon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the contract with Amazon to share health data from the NHS was put out to competitive tender.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

The agreement with Amazon is non-exclusive and we want to work with other organisations to arrange for the content to be provided on other home devices. There are currently over 2,000 other organisations using content from the National Health Service website.

This is a mutually beneficial collaboration that will enable greater numbers of people to access health information accredited by the NHS, helping to put people in control of their own healthcare. The information being provided to users of Alexa devices asking questions is already freely available through the NHS website. This is an alternative mechanism for delivering that information. Patients already use Alexa and other devices to search for information on a range of health issues. This agreement ensures that the information they receive from Alexa is medically verified by the NHS instead of from a range of other sources, such as non-United Kingdom websites.

NHS Digital and NHSX have built an interface (known technically as an API, or Application Programming Interface) to content on the NHS website so that other organisations can use it to make NHS information available through their own sites. It is freely available.

The service available through Alexa enables a greater number of people to access certified NHS information from a trusted source, instead of potentially misleading information from a range of worldwide websites where the information may not have been clinically assessed.


7 Jan 2020, 5:54 p.m. NHS: Amazon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government why several sections of the contract to share NHS data with Amazon were redacted when placed in the public domain.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

The agreement between the Department and Amazon is about using content from the National Health Service website to provide reliable and informative answers to basic health questions asked to Amazon’s virtual assistant voice service, Alexa. This content is already freely available on the NHS website. Patients already use Alexa and other devices to search for information on a range of health issues. This agreement ensures that the information they receive from Alexa is medically verified by the NHS instead of from a range of other sources, such as American websites.

This agreement is not exclusive. There are over 2,000 other organisations that are accessing and using information from the NHS website in a similar way.

A limited number of clauses have been redacted due to being exempt under Section 43(2) of the Freedom Of Information Agreement, which exempts information where the release would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any entity, including the public authority holding the information.

In this case, we consider that the release of the redacted clauses would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of Amazon on the basis that it would make public the non-standard terms that Amazon has been willing to enter into in respect of this agreement. Disclosure of the redacted clauses has potential to prejudice existing agreements between Amazon and other parties, which could result in other parties challenging Amazon over the terms and conditions of their agreements.

In addition, certain personal information has been redacted in the agreement. This information is exempt from disclosure under Section 40(2) of Freedom Of Information Agreement as disclosure of this personal information would breach the data protection principles. In particular, we consider that the disclosure of this personal information would be unfair and breach the first data principle.

7 Jan 2020, 5:45 p.m. Health Professions: Training Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government, following the announcement that nursing bursaries are to be reintroduced, what plans they have to support nurses, midwifes and other healthcare professionals with any debt incurred before the reintroduction to support their study and training.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

We have committed to 50,000 more nurses in the National Health Service by 2025 and our new financial support package is crucial to delivering this.

Eligible pre-registration students on nursing, midwifery and many allied health students’ courses at English universities from September 2020 will benefit from additional support of at least £5,000 of non-repayable funding, with up to £3,000 additional funding for some students, who choose to study in regions or specialisms struggling to recruit, or to help with childcare costs, which they will not have to pay back.

The Government has no plans to introduce a scheme that will backdate the offer for students who completed courses in earlier years.

7 Jan 2020, 5:45 p.m. Air Pollution: Health Hazards Lord Taylor of Warwick

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of air pollution on the NHS, particularly in the winter.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

Public Health England published a cost analysis tool in 2018 for estimating the health burden and costs to the National Health Service and social care system arising due to diseases related to air pollution. Figures are available at the national and local levels including future cost estimates. No specific estimations made by season are available. The tool to help local authorities estimate the burden of air pollution on the health care system, Estimation of costs to the NHS and social care due to the health impacts of air pollution, is attached.

7 Jan 2020, 5:43 p.m. Cheltenham Hospital: Accident and Emergency Departments Lord Jones of Cheltenham

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with (1) the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and (2) the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, about the consultant-led Accident and Emergency service at Cheltenham General Hospital; and what was the outcome of any such discussions.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

There are no plans to close Cheltenham General Hospital’s (CGH) accident and emergency (A&E) and NHS England and NHS Improvement is clear that any potential solution developed as part of One Gloucestershire’s Fit for the Future public engagement programme will not include any such plans.

NHS England and NHS Improvement envisages the same workforce in the department and this includes a consultant-led service at Cheltenham’s A&E department.

Options for public consultation have not been drawn up at this stage. There are no formal proposals developed which include removing the consultant-led A&E service at Cheltenham.

Discussions have taken place between the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Following these discussions, the Secretary of State confirmed on 23 October 2019 that no proposals to close Cheltenham A&E would be included in the forthcoming consultation.

CGH’s A&E department is consultant-led from 8am-8pm and overnight (8pm – 8am) the service is led by specialist emergency nurse practitioners. This arrangement, which has been in place since 2013, was in response to a lack of middle grade doctors and has preserved and ensured the continuation of high-quality care for patients in Gloucestershire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Options for public consultation have not yet been drawn up due to the pre-consultation engagement phase, which is ongoing.

7 Jan 2020, 5:43 p.m. Cheltenham Hospital: Accident and Emergency Departments Lord Jones of Cheltenham

Question to the Department of Health and Social Care

To ask Her Majesty's Government what factors led to their consideration of removing the consultant-led Accident and Emergency service at Cheltenham General Hospital.

Answer (Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford)

There are no plans to close Cheltenham General Hospital’s (CGH) accident and emergency (A&E) and NHS England and NHS Improvement is clear that any potential solution developed as part of One Gloucestershire’s Fit for the Future public engagement programme will not include any such plans.

NHS England and NHS Improvement envisages the same workforce in the department and this includes a consultant-led service at Cheltenham’s A&E department.

Options for public consultation have not been drawn up at this stage. There are no formal proposals developed which include removing the consultant-led A&E service at Cheltenham.

Discussions have taken place between the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Following these discussions, the Secretary of State confirmed on 23 October 2019 that no proposals to close Cheltenham A&E would be included in the forthcoming consultation.

CGH’s A&E department is consultant-led from 8am-8pm and overnight (8pm – 8am) the service is led by specialist emergency nurse practitioners. This arrangement, which has been in place since 2013, was in response to a lack of middle grade doctors and has preserved and ensured the continuation of high-quality care for patients in Gloucestershire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Options for public consultation have not yet been drawn up due to the pre-consultation engagement phase, which is ongoing.