HC Deb 01 April 2003 vol 402 cc693-6W
Mrs. Gillan

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on the effect upon dermatology departments of waiting times for treatment of suspected skin cancer; [105055]

(2) whether his Department has undertaken an audit of the number of benign lesions which are being referred into secondary care because of waiting times for suspected cases of skin cancer. [105056]

Ms Blears

A two-week out-patient waiting time standard was introduced for urgently referred cases of suspected skin cancer from October 2000. In the last quarter (October-December 2002), 98.7 per cent. of urgently referred patients with suspected skin cancer were seen within two weeks of urgent referral. We have issued general practitioner cancer referral guidelines to assist GPs in determining those patients who need to be referred urgently to see a specialist within two weeks, those patients that can be referred for a routine appointment and those who can be safely watched at a primary care level. The referral guidelines are currently being reviewed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

The referral guidelines should be used to agree local referral criteria and referral pathways. The Department has not carried out a national audit of skin cancer referrals but all trusts have been encouraged to undertake local audit to enable the appropriateness of urgent and routine referrals against the guidelines to be fed back to referring GPs.

Mrs. Gillan

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent efforts his Department has made to publicise the availability of sun safety advice and information; [105058]

(2) how much money his Department has allocated to sun awareness campaigns in each year from 2003 to 2007; [105057]

(3) whether guidance has been issued to schools on how to protect school children from the sun. [105059]

Ms Blears

A new sun awareness initiative, "SunSmart", was launched on 27 March by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to make the public aware of the dangers of exposure to the sun. The campaign is based on the successful "SunSmart" campaign in Australia. The campaign has received funding of £120,000 from the United Kingdom Health Departments this year. We will evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign later in the year, with a view to deciding on future funding and campaigns.

The SunSmart campaign consists of a poster and leaflet for the public CRUK website redesign and links to other stakeholclers, branding and design of "SunSmart", CRUK commissioned research at the Centre for Social Marketing and a part-time health promotion consultant at CRUK for the duration of the campaign.

The campaign's aim is to increase the profile of the issue of skin cancer and methods of effective sun protection.

The key objectives are to increase knowledge of the causes of skin cancer, increase awareness of actions that can be taken to prevent skin cancer and to influence positively attitudes to sun protection.

Subject to further funding, longer-term aims are to reduce sunlight exposure through changes in behaviour and environment, increase the proportion of people reporting with early stage disease and decrease the proportion of people presenting with late tumours.

The campaign's key messages have been disseminated by way of an alert to the campaign and mailshot pack of posters and leaflets to all GP surgeries and health promotion units nationally, an alert to the campaign and mailshot to secondary schools with 3,500 leaflets and posters and a series of press events over summer 2003 with leaflets/posters targeted in cities and seaside resorts.

We developed the "SunSafe" web pages last year, which were designed with children in mind, on the Department of Health website at www.doh.gov.uk/ sunsafe. These will continue. Sun awareness information is also contained on the Wired For Health website at www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk/teaching/sun/intro.html.

We continue to fund annually the Meteorological Office to provide the daily ultra-violet index in the media—on television, radio and the Meteorological Office website.

The Department also provides core funding to the National Radiological Protection Board, which has expertise on ultra-violet radiation issues.

Mrs. Gillan

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the number of clinical nurse specialists in skin cancer. [105060]

Ms Blears

The Department of Health Workforce Census shows that, since the launch of the NHS Plan, from September 1999 to September 2001, there was a net increase in nurses working in the national health service of 20,740. This increase will enable the recruitment of additional nurses to care for cancer patients. This will include increases in cancer-site specific nurse specialists where need has been identified through local workforce planning.

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