§ 5. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham)
What plans he has to review the workings of independent review panels in the NHS. 
§ The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Alan Milburn)
An independent evaluation of all aspects of national health service complaints procedures is due to begin in the new year. It will include consideration of the independent review procedures.
§ Dr. Cable
Does the Minister agree that there is a great danger that the review panels' independence—which is so vital for patients—could be undermined by the intervention of health service officials? Will he agree to take a fresh look at a case about which I have written to him, concerning a constituent of mine, the Hertfordshire health authority and the Queen Elizabeth hospital? The authority arbitrarily ruled that a maximum of two members of a family could be present at an inquiry into their mother's death, and as the family is larger than that and is unwilling to be divided, the inquiry cannot proceed.
§ Mr. Milburn
I am certainly extremely happy to refer that case to the people who will carry out the review of the NHS complaints procedure. That procedure was introduced by the previous Government in 1996; as it has now operated for a couple of years, we think that it is right to review it, and in particular to consider it from the point of view of complainants, patients and indeed the NHS staff who have to operate the system. I am happy to take on board the hon. Gentleman's comments and to ensure that they are fed into the review.