Published: 26/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5824 Page 6 7

Some trusts are failing to take immediate action when the Medical Devices Agency sends out hazard warnings about unsafe medical products, junior health minister Lord Hunt told the agency's second annual conference in London.

In some cases there were delays of several weeks before notices were even circulated around trusts, Lord Hunt revealed.

In a keynote speech last week, Lord Hunt rapped managers' knuckles for failing to take the distribution of patient safety information seriously enough.

Accusing them of failing to appoint senior staff to the job of MDA liaison officers, he said: 'The status some trusts accord to the liaison officer looks alarmingly as if they think it can be tacked on to any old job - almost as an optional extra - and that will not do. We cannot tolerate delays in distributing vital safety information.'

Lord Hunt said he wanted MDA and other agencies to ensure that every part of the health service gave the highest priority to distributing safety information and taking appropriate, effective action.

One liaison officer criticised MDA for sending notices by fax rather than e-mail and at 4pm on a Friday afternoon - when hundreds of copies had to be printed out and delivered by hand around the hospital.

MDA chief executive Dr David Jefferys said notices were sent immediately they were approved, whatever the time, to avoid delay in NHS staff acting on them.

MDA and the National Patients' Association are currently looking at a single system for distributing patient safety information electronically.

Meanwhile, they send them by fax because not all senior staff have computers yet.