The NHS is making excellent progress. Managers and professionals in hospitals, health authorities and primary health care teams are working together to achieve health improvement in the key areas and other local priority areas.
The NHS is setting the pace for other organisations to follow.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Mid-Staffordshire group of hospitals on getting trust status? Will she confirm that being a trust means that no one in my constituency who goes to that group of hospitals will need to enter a building that is more than 10 years old? How does she intend to expand the scheme so that other parts of the country may enjoy trust status hospital treatment?
I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend. Like many other Members of Parliament, he, on behalf of his constituents, is seeing the benefits that trusts can bring. I am pleased to tell him that today I have accepted a further 121 expressions of interest in the fourth wave of NHS trusts. If all those applications are successful, 95 per cent. of hospital and community health service provision will be in the hands of trusts. That is good for the NHS and for the health of the nation.
Will the Secretary of State explain how the guidelines laid out in "The Health of the Nation" White Paper relating to mental health patients can be seen to be implemented when people such as Dr. Loucas, who was the subject of a "Cutting Edge" documentary on Channel 4 last night, are still allowed to practise? Despite repeated warnings from the Mental Health Act Commissioner about his activities, he still practises. Will she give an assurance that there will be a full inquiry and that the results of that inquiry will be made public?
The hon. Lady asked about the guidelines in the White Paper on mental health. Last year, 71 million working days were lost as a result of mental health problems. That is 14 per cent. of sickness absence, and it accounts for 23 per cent. of the drug budget. The problems of mental illness that the nation faces are very serious and are certainly a priority.
In relation to the case raised by the hon. Lady, the Mental Health Act Commission made it clear that progress had been made at the special hospital. As to the further allegations about Riverside health authority, further investigations and assurances are on their way.
The successful implementation of the proposals laid out in "The Health of the Nation" involve not only my right hon. Friend's Department but a number of other Government Departments. What mechanism exists to ensure co-ordination between Government Departments? To what extent is that co-ordination reflected at regional and health authority level?
I assure my hon. Friend that there is a Cabinet Committee, under the chairmanship of the Lord President of the Council, which oversees progress in meeting the targets in "The Health of the Nation". That committee met last week, and further progress was made. At regional level, there is a particular officer to take progress forward, and it is subject to the management review.
There will be a series of regional conferences in the new year to ensure that all parties to a healthy alliance are able to contribute. Only by different agencies working together will we achieve the real improvements in health that underlie our health strategy.
Will the Secretary of State accept that her answer this afternoon about the revelations made by The Independent and the Channel 4 "Cutting Edge" programme about Dr. Kypros Loucas shows that the Department is unwilling to act on a series of recommendations made by, first, the Mental Health Act Commission and, secondly, interested parties who have expressed grave concerns to the Department and Ministers about the activities of Dr. Loucas not merely at Broadmoor but at Horton general hospital and subsequently as an employee, at present at Wormwood Scrubs? Is the Secretary of State telling the House this afternoon that hormone experiments of a kind practised by Dr. Mengele, the application of electro-convulsive therapy without anaesthetic and the overdosing of patients' drugs are practices which her Department is willing to countenance? In what way does the right hon. Lady recommend that the powerless in our society protect themselves from the powerful in high places?
I have already informed the House that the Mental Health Act Commission commented on the position at Broadmoor in 1989; at that stage, it said that progress had been made in the matters to which the hon. Gentleman referred. That was the year in which the doctor involved left Broadmoor. We are carrying out further investigations with Riverside health authority into the subsequent events at Horton general hospital. We have also drawn the attention of the General Medical Council to the programme.