Written Question
NHS and Social Services: Protective Clothing
29 May 2020, 8:34 p.m.

Questioner: Preet Kaur Gill

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what the average (a) hold and (b) process time is for orders placed through the national supply disruption response service helpline.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR) was rapidly stood up in March 2020 to respond to supply disruption of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a result of COVID-19. Since then, the NSDR has made over 4,000 emergency deliveries of PPE.

The NSDR operates a 24 hours a day, seven days a week helpline for those in urgent need of PPE and other supplies which they are unable to source through their usual routes. Between 11 and 18 May the average call centre wait time was 1.19 seconds. Over the same period the average case resolution time was 1.97 days.


Written Question
Exercise Cygnus: Disclosure of Information
29 May 2020, 7:52 p.m.

Questioner: Sir Christopher Chope

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the principle of transparency set out on page 18 of the Government document entitled Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, CP239, for what reason he has not published the scientific and technical advice arising from Exercise Cygnus; and if he will make a statement.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Reports on exercises are not routinely published by the Department to allow full, candid and proper deliberation of the lessons learnt.

The scientific and technical advice from Exercise Cygnus was based on a hypothetical scenario for a fictional influenza pandemic and is therefore not suitable for publication.

Lessons from Exercise Cygnus, in conjunction with expert advice, continue to be used in planning for a future influenza pandemic and inform policy development.


Written Question
Exercise Cygnus
29 May 2020, 7:48 p.m.

Questioner: Dr Matthew Offord

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant to the Answer of 13 May 2020 to Question 37613 on Disease Control, what outcomes of Exercise Cygnus were; and what work his Department (a) stopped and (b) commenced following that exercise.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Learning the lessons from preparedness exercises, as well as other sources of expertise has ensured that the United Kingdom remains well prepared for infectious disease outbreaks. Working across Government and with stakeholders, the lessons identified from Exercise Cygnus have informed our preparedness, such as development of draft legislation support to the response to a future influenza pandemic and, strengthening health sector plans to surge and flex beyond normal operations.

The lessons learned from Exercise Cygnus continue to be considered by the Government and a range of stakeholders, including expert advisory groups and local emergency planners in reviewing response plans.


Written Question
Exercise Cygnus
29 May 2020, 7:45 p.m.

Questioner: Catherine West

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant the Answer of 4 May 2020 to Question 41129, whether actions, implementation and follow-up plans were developed after Exercise Cygnus; and whether those plans were directly provided to the care sector.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The lessons learned from Exercise Cygnus continue to be considered by the Government and a range of stakeholders, including expert advisory groups and local emergency planners in reviewing response plans.

Taking the recommendations from Exercise Cygnus, the Department commissioned further work on pandemic influenza preparedness from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. This was completed in the spring of 2018 and included advice and guidance on planning for a pandemic, which was circulated to Directors of Adult Social Services.


Written Question
Smoking
29 May 2020, 7:34 p.m.

Questioner: Conor McGinn

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what the evidential basis is for banning the sale and production of menthol cigarettes in the UK.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR), introduced a ban on flavoured cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco. The only exception was for menthol cigarettes where a four-year extension was allowed for the ban to come into force. This expired on 20 May 2020.

The published impact assessment of the TRPR, along with backed up by the international evidence base, states that menthol cigarettes act as a gateway into smoking, have particular appeal amongst young people, and that there is a misconception that they are healthier to smoke.

The introduction of the ban will save lives. Stopping smoking now will bring immediate benefits to health, including for those with an existing smoking-related disease.


Written Question
Mesothelioma
29 May 2020, 7:07 p.m.

Questioner: Alexander Stafford

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many people have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in (a) England, (b) Yorkshire, (c) the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, and (d) Rother Valley constituency in 2019.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Data on the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are not available in the format requested. The latest cancer registration data for 2018 is available to view at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/cancer-registration-statistics-england-2018

The 2019 cancer registration data is not yet available. It is due to be published in spring 2021.


Written Question
Influenza: Vaccination
29 May 2020, 6:43 p.m.

Questioner: Rachael Maskell

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department has taken to help ensure that vulnerable people receive a flu vaccination before winter 2020-21.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Flu vaccination starts in September each year. Public Health England is developing a marketing campaign, which will be launched ahead of the flu season, to encourage uptake of flu vaccination amongst those who are most at risk of flu.

We have also published the Annual Flu letter 2020/21 to ensure that local areas have plans to deliver activities to encourage those in at risk groups to have the vaccine. The letter is available at the following link:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884718/Annual_flu_letter_short_2020_to_2021_v8__002_.pdf

To increase patient choice, adults who are eligible will be able to access the vaccine through their local community pharmacy, as well as via their general practice.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Ethnic Groups
29 May 2020, 6:32 p.m.

Questioner: Marsha De Cordova

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what proportion of people who have been tested positive for covid-19 are BAME.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Data on the proportion of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in England by ethnicity is publicly available in the weekly national surveillance reports. These can be accessed on the GOV.UK site at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-covid-19-surveillance-reports

The last report, based on week 19 (reflecting data up to 10 May 2020 and where available up to 13 May 2020) showed 17.8% of cases who are from a Black, Asian, and minority ethnic group.


Written Question
Drugs: Prices
29 May 2020, 6:13 p.m.

Questioner: Matt Vickers

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of whether there has been a change in the price of medicines and drugs for the NHS and pharmacists since the start of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The costs of branded medicines are controlled by the 2019 Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access and the statutory scheme for branded medicines.

For unbranded generic medicines the Department relies on competition to keep prices down. This has led to some of the lowest prices in Europe and allows prices to react to the market. In an international market this ensures that when demand is high and supply is low, prices in the United Kingdom can increase to help secure the availability of medicines for UK patients.

We continuously monitor overall movements in changes in prices of medicines through various methods including data from suppliers using the provisions in the Health Service Products (Provision and Disclosure of Information) Regulations 2018. However, it is too early to assess the full financial impact on the National Health Service and pharmacies in light of COVID-19.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Disease Control
29 May 2020, 5:57 p.m.

Questioner: Daniel Zeichner

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he has made an assessment of the potential merits of including the loss of smell and taste as a potential symptom of covid-19 on the NHS covid-19 website.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Following the United Kingdom Chief Medical Officers’ statement on 18 May 2020 advising that a loss or changed sense of normal smell or taste (anosmia) can be a symptom of COVID-19, the National Health Service website has been updated to reflect this. Further information out the potential symptoms of COVID-19 is available online at the following link:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/


Written Question
Prescriptions
29 May 2020, 5:44 p.m.

Questioner: Munira Wilson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the accessibility of prescriptions to people that are are self-isolating during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The Department has not made an assessment of individual accessibility. However, a National Health Service Medicine Delivery Service has been commissioned from both community pharmacies and dispensing doctors to ensure delivery of medicines to patients who have been identified as ‘shielded’ where they cannot identify a family member, friend or volunteer to collect them.

Other vulnerable patients, including those isolating, can also make use of volunteers to get their medicines delivered.


Written Question
Prescriptions: Fees and Charges
29 May 2020, 5:39 p.m.

Questioner: Munira Wilson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department had made of the financial effect on people with low incomes of the NHS prescription levy increase.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

People on a low income can seek help under the NHS Low Income Scheme, which provides help with health costs on an income-related basis.

Prescription charges are a valuable income source for the National Health Service, contributing £591.9 million in revenue for the financial year 2018/19, enabling more services to be provided for more people.


Written Question
Prescriptions: Fees and Charges
29 May 2020, 5:36 p.m.

Questioner: Munira Wilson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to ensure prescriptions are affordable and accessible for those who (a) have been furloughed or (b) are awaiting access to universal credit.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

A broad range of National Health Service prescription charge exemptions are in place to help those with greatest need, including those on a low income.

The new FP10 NHS prescription form, which includes a tick box for Universal Credit claimants who meet the criteria for free prescriptions, has been in use since January. If a patient is waiting for a decision on their claim they should pay for their prescription and claim a refund of the charge from the NHS Business Services Authority once notified of their award by the Department for Work and Pensions.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Older People
29 May 2020, 5:04 p.m.

Questioner: Mr Barry Sheerman

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether people aged over 70 years old are (a) clinically vulnerable and (b) advised to shield for 12 weeks from 23 March 2020 as a result of the covid-19 outbreak; and whether people in that age group are able to move house.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

People aged 70 and over are at higher risk of severe illness if they catch the virus and are considered to be clinically vulnerable. Our advice for people aged 70 and over is to practice stringent social distancing to minimise contact with others outside their household, but not to shield unless advised by their general practitioner (GP) or clinician.

Only those who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to shield. Anyone who is 70 or over who has been advised to shield by the National Health Service or their GP should continue to do this until at least the end of June.

We recognise that some over 70s who are shielding or otherwise vulnerable may also have a pressing need to move home; however, this should be balanced with the increased risks presented by COVID-19 and the medical advice for such people, including on staying at home and avoiding unnecessary contacts over this period, if at all possible.


Written Question
Processed Food
29 May 2020, 1:14 p.m.

Questioner: Royston Smith

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to work with the food and drink industry on reducing the sugar and salt content of their products.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Public Health England (PHE) oversees the sugar and wider reduction and reformulation programme on behalf of the Government, as set out in chapters one and two of the childhood obesity plan and the 2019 Prevention Green Paper. PHE runs the programme, which includes food and drink industry engagement, to achieve the programme’s targets. PHE monitors and regularly reports on their progress.

In 2019, PHE published its second report on industry progress towards achieving the Government’s ambition on sugar reduction. The report shows a mixed picture of progress for food categories in scope and relevant businesses. Continued progress was reported on drinks that are subject to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. The report is available to view at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sugar-reduction-progress-between-2015-and-2018

PHE published the first detailed assessment of progress for the salt reduction programme in December 2018. PHE is now working on the development of revised salt targets as set out in the Government’s Prevention Green Paper ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’. Further information can be viewed at the following links:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/salt-targets-2017-progress-report

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/advancing-our-health-prevention-in-the-2020s


Written Question
Obesity: Health Services
29 May 2020, 1:06 p.m.

Questioner: Royston Smith

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to mitigate the effect of high levels of obesity on NHS services.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The Government has outlined steps to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030 through cutting sugar from half the drinks on sale, funding more opportunities for children to exercise in schools, and working with councils to tackle child obesity locally through ground-breaking programmes.

It is also critical to understand how different factors, including obesity, could be disproportionally impacting how people are affected by COVID-19.

Public Health England launched a review into the factors affecting health outcomes from COVID-19, to include ethnicity, gender and obesity. This will be published by the end of May.

As outlined in the United Kingdom Government’s Recovery Strategy, the Government is committed to investing in preventative and personalised solutions to ill-health, empowering individuals to live healthier and more active lives, which will help to mitigate pressures faced by NHS services.


Written Question
Obesity
29 May 2020, 1:01 p.m.

Questioner: Royston Smith

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to reduce increasing levels of obesity.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Public Health England (PHE) is working to address excess weight and obesity and support the Government’s aim to halve childhood obesity and reduce the gap in obesity rates between children from the most and least deprived areas by 2030, set out in the Childhood Obesity Plan (2016) and follow up Chapter 2 (2018).

PHE is doing this by working with the food industry on the reduction and reformulation programme to make everyday food and drinks healthier; enabling healthier weight environments, including supporting local authorities to take a place-based systems approach to obesity; supporting the local delivery of evidence-based, effective and sustainable weight management services; and supporting children and families through the use of digital technologies.

The Government recently published recovery strategy, ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’ (2020) reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the obesity agenda going forward. The Strategy can be viewed at the following link:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884760/Our_plan_to_rebuild_The_UK_Government_s_COVID-19_recovery_strategy.pdf


Written Question
General Practitioners: Video Conferencing
29 May 2020, 12:57 p.m.

Questioner: Matt Vickers

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many GP surgeries have offered online video appointments since the beginning of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Data provided by NHSX, based on information received from suppliers indicates that 6,369 general practices in England, or 94% of the total, had video consultation capabilities as at 11 May 2020.


Written Question
Dental Services: Coronavirus
28 May 2020, 4:49 p.m.

Questioner: Jonathan Ashworth

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, when dentists will be able to resume normal practice in England after the covid-19 lockdown.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

Routine dentistry has been suspended during the peak of the pandemic period with urgent face to face care concentrated on urgent dental care centres both to support social distancing measures and maximise safety for patients. NHS England and NHS Improvement are working to ensure appropriate services are in place for all who need them. All National Health Service dental practices are expected to provide urgent advice over the phone and, if needed, prescriptions for painkillers or antibiotics. Practices, or NHS 111 if the patient is unable to contact a practice, will triage patients and if needed refer to one of the urgent dental centres set up so far by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

As of 20 May there are 528 NHS urgent dental centres across England providing urgent dental care and treatment to patients.

NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Chief Dental Officer are looking urgently, in collaboration with the dental sector, at how soon wider NHS dental services can safely reopen.  NHS England will publish further guidance once decisions on the recovery of dental services have been finalised.


Written Question
General Practitioners: Recruitment
28 May 2020, 4:32 p.m.

Questioner: Clive Lewis

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he has plans to increase the number of GPs per 1,000 people in line with levels in other European countries.

Answer (Jo Churchill)

The Department does not make recommendations for how many patients a general practitioner (GP) should have as the demand each patient places on their GP is different and can be affected by various factors, including rurality and patient demographics. It is also important to consider GPs as part of the wider multidisciplinary team as getting the skills mix right in general practice is critical in addressing workload pressures and delivering appropriate patient care.

As part of the 2020/21 GP Contract, the Government and NHS England have committed at least an additional £1.5 billion in cash terms for general practice over the next four years for additional staff. This is in addition to the £4.5 billion real terms annual increase announced for primary and community care in the NHS Long Term Plan by 2023/24.

We have committed to growing the workforce by 6,000 more doctors in general practice and 26,000 more primary care professionals, such as physiotherapists and pharmacists. Growing the workforce will mean larger teams of staff providing a wider range of care options for patients and will free up more time for doctors to focus on those with more complex needs. This, alongside increasing the use of technology in general practice, will create an extra 50 million appointments a year by 2024/25 and improve access to primary care services.


Written Question
Department of Health and Social Care: Chief Scientific Advisers
28 May 2020, 1:03 p.m.

Questioner: Greg Clark

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many meetings he had with his Department’s Chief Scientific Adviser (a) from 1 September to 30 November 2019 and (b) from 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020.

Answer (Edward Argar)

The Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department had two meetings with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care between 1 September to 30 November 2019, and 17 meetings between 1 December 2019 and 29 February 2020.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Drugs
28 May 2020, 12:53 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure the preservation of sufficient stocks of drugs that may be promising for use (1) to treat COVID-19 patients, or (2) in COVID-19 clinical trials, in addition to the illnesses they were originally developed for.

Answer (Lord Bethell)

As part of our concerted national efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access safe and effective medicines, including those used in clinical trials. The Department is working closely with the pharmaceutical industry, the National Health Service and others in the supply chain to help ensure patients can access the medicines they need, and precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of future shortages.

We are implementing a joined-up and streamlined process across research, manufacturing and distribution that will rapidly test potential treatments for COVID-19 and prepare to increase supplies if trials show positive indications. In order to support clinical trials, there are centrally procured and managed supplies of a number of medicines.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Medical Treatments
28 May 2020, 12:53 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to streamline (1) legislative, or (2) regulatory, hurdles in the approvals process for treatments for COVID-19; and what safeguards will be built into any proposed changes to this process.

Answer (Lord Bethell)

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is providing expedited scientific advice, and rapid reviews of clinical trials applications to support manufacturers and researchers on potential treatments for COVID-19.

The MHRA is also working closely with the Department and other healthcare partners and stakeholders to rapidly identify where flexibilities in the regulation of medicines and medical devices may be possible. This is with a view to supporting the healthcare products supply chain and wider response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United Kingdom. These flexibilities are being offered to provide flexibility in exceptional circumstances. The flexibilities are temporary and will be kept under review, except where regulatory extensions have been stated.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Screening
28 May 2020, 12:52 p.m.

Questioner: Baroness Pinnock

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements have been made to ensure prompt and universal COVID-19 testing for those (1) providing home care, and (2) receiving care at home.

Answer (Lord Bethell)

Symptomatic social care workers (and symptomatic members of their household) who are self-isolating can access testing through the online self-referral portal. Individuals can also be referred for a test by their employer through the employer referral portal.

Anyone in England over the age of five with any of the symptoms of COVID-19 can ask for a test through the National Health Service website.


Written Question
Coronavirus: Vaccination
28 May 2020, 12:51 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Bassam of Brighton

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking in response to the risk that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be found in the coming months.

Answer (Lord Bethell)

There is extraordinary effort taking place in the United Kingdom and internationally to accelerate the research and development of a vaccine as soon as possible, with the Government making over £130 million available to fund the front-runners University of Oxford and Imperial College London teams, on top of the £250 million we have pledged to the international effort to find a vaccine – the largest international contribution of any country.

Given that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be found, we are also working on identifying safe and effective treatments for COVID-19. There are multiple clinical trials underway, including the ACCORD phase II trial platform that identifies and tests newer therapeutics, and phase III trials including PRINCIPLE, RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP, that are trialling repurposed drugs in primary, acute and intensive care settings respectively.