HC Deb 15 January 1985 vol 71 cc167-8
1. Mr. Chris Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the provision for cervical cancer screening in Islington.

The Minister for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Health authorities are responsible for operating the cervical screening programme within their own districts. I understand that there is concern about the scope of the recall arrangements in Islington. We are taking this up with the authority and I shall write to the hon. Member when the inquiries are completed.

Mr. Smith

Does the Minister agree that this area of health care is of great importance to women? Does he further agree that until we get proper recall systems throughout the country, and a proper call system for women to be screened for this form of cancer throughout the country, the provision of services will be inadequate? Does he have any intention of providing funds to district health authorities to enable them to make such provision?

Mr. Clarke

I agree that cervical cancer is a major cause of avoidable death. We shall do everything possible to continue to reduce deaths caused by it. We have given advice to all district health authorities, asking them to set up effective recall systems, especially for priority groups of women who are most at risk. We shall take up with Islington the fact that, although it has arrangements, they do not seem to comply with our guidance. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about that. Call systems require an authority or a practice to have an adequate age-sex register of their patients, but not all of them do. As we make more advances with the computerisation of family practitioner committees, and as better information is available to them, I hope that we shall move towards the introduction of call systems if research shows them to be effective.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Minister confirm that Camden and Islington FPC is not unique in not having a scheme? Will he confirm that more than 25 per cent. of FPC areas have no schemes whatever?

Mr. Clarke

The schemes vary. Good local schemes are much more effective than the national scheme that we replaced. Islington is operating a scheme but it is not of the form that we have recommended and we are asking it why it does not introduce an automatic recall scheme for at-risk groups every five years. We have just reminded authorities again of their duty to have a local recall system. As we advance further with computerisation and get new FPCs going I believe that we shall get them all up to the standards of the best.

Dr. Glyn

Although my right hon. and learned Friend has asked local authorities to examine their recall systems, what powers of enforcement does he have?

Mr. Clarke

We do not use legal powers in this area. We give guidance and instructions and inform authorities of their duty to have a local recall system. I do not find resistance to the idea at local health authority level. We are merely ensuring that we encourage all of them to make progress.