In the light of questions asked today at PMQs, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the issue was not about whether Photo-Dynamic Therapy (PDT) was being implemented at the current time, but how long it would take to ensure a high and consistent standard of care across the country. NICE had agreed with the Department of Health that, because it would take time to train all staff up to the same standard, the target would be nine months instead of three. Thus, it was not a matter of some people not receiving treatment at the current time. Rather, where the facilities existed and were up to a high standard - which we believed was already the case in the majority of centres - people would receive the treatment now if they needed it. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that people would receive treatment where the facilities existed and where staff had been trained. However, because it would take time to train all staff in PDT, it would take nine months until a high and consistent standard of care was achieved across the country. Asked how we would square the fact that only people who lived in certain areas would be able to receive PDT, with the Government's stated commitment to stamp out the postcode lottery, the PMOS said that it was a matter of training up all staff in PDT. NICE had agreed with the Department of Health that it would take nine months to do. Asked what was being done to help those people who needed PDT but lived in the wrong geographical area, the PMOS said that this was one of the issues which was being considered. He pointed out that, as we understood it, fifty centres were needed to cover the country. At the moment, only about thirty had staff who had been trained up in PDT. By the end of nine months, we hoped that all fifty centres would be fully operational.
Asked if the Prime Minister stood by the Home Secretary's statement yesterday that it had been agreed the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would become the Public Prosecution Service, the PMOS said that he had dealt with the issue this morning at great length. He had nothing further to add.
Asked if the Home Secretary had jumped the gun yesterday by announcing that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would be renamed the Public Prosecution Service, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said we were surprised that people were surprised about this issue given the fact that it had been floated as an idea by the Attorney General last January, the Home Secretary last summer and the Director of Public Prosecutions two weeks ago. He underlined that it was still being floated as an idea. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC, had issued a statement yesterday saying, "We are a public prosecution service and for some time I have favoured a change of name to make that clearer". No final decision had been reached at this point. When the process was complete, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions would make an announcement. The idea had merit because it reflected the point that the Prosecution Service worked on behalf of the public.
Asked if the UK's Special Representative in Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, had been indicating today that Coalition troops would be have to remain in Iraq for the longer term due to the escalating violence there, the PMOS said that Sir Jeremy had simply been making the point that it was impossible to say with any precision how long they would have to remain there. As Sir Jeremy had said, it was important to recognise that there was a concerted attempt to stop democracy establishing itself in Iraq. We would disagree fundamentally with those who suggested that democracy was an alien concept in Iraq. It wasn't. The remarkable progress that had been made this week in reaching agreement on the Transitional Law showed that there was a determination amongst those who represented the Iraqi people to try to achieve that transition to democracy within the envisaged timescale. That was not to say, however, that there wouldn't be further concerted attempts to disrupt that process. Nevertheless, there was a clear determination not to let that happen. Asked if the UK was committed to increasing the 'security consequentials' if we were going to stick to the timetable, the PMOS said that as we had learned from bitter experience, it was impossible to achieve a 100% level of security. It was easy for people to say that our armed forces should be able to prevent attacks. However, that was simply not a realistic expectation. The reality was that there was a concerted attempt going on to disrupt the process in Iraq and that further attacks, like the ones yesterday, would be inevitable. However, we were determined that such a thing should not be a distraction from the important work that was going on.
US Presidential Election
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Senator John Kerry's assessment that the Bush Administration's foreign policy was 'inept, reckless, arrogant and ideological', the PMOS said that during his press conference last week, the Prime Minister had been invited to comment on the US presidential primaries and had declined to do so. As the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman, he thought that was a very good example to follow. Asked if the Prime Minister had sent his congratulations to Senator Kerry following his successes in yesterday's Democratic presidential primaries, the PMOS referred journalists to the answer he had just given.
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