[The Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo): ... The Department of Health is working with NICE to see whether it is possible to expand the capacity of the short clinical guidelines programme, through which the topic is being addressed, which could mean that it is able to start work earlier than is currently planned. I will ensure that my hon. Friend is kept fully informed of progress as we seek to move the discussion forward. My colleague, Lord Darzi, is looking at the issue with a view to identifying further action for the Department to take in the near future.]
Dr Julian Lewis: I thank the Minister for the comprehensiveness of the account that she is giving. In her work with NICE on the possible expansion of the short clinical guidelines procedure, will she especially raise the point that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) indicated, separate consideration ought to be given to cases of this sort, when we are not talking about drugs, but about relatively simple physical procedures? There should be an accelerated consideration of such cases, because the prospect of adverse side effects is vanishingly small.
[Dawn Primarolo: I confirm that that is precisely what the introduction of the short clinical guidelines programme seeks to do. One of the reasons for the delay of the referral – I gave the three reasons earlier – was uncertainty about which programme the topic should have been in. I am trying to provide information, but the House will not gain anything if I look back and say, “The delay may not be to do with the Department or NICE,” or, “So and so did this or that, which caused a delay.” The urgent questions to address in this debate are: what were the delays, were they reasonable – I do not think that they were – what lessons have we learned to ensure that the same situation does not arise again, and what are we doing to ensure the timely consideration not only of this case, but of other short clinical guidelines programmes?]
[NOTE: For Julian's speech in this Debate, click here.]