On 18 October 2006 in a written answer to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) Official Report, column 1331W, I stated that 187,086 tattoos were removed by the NHS between April 2004 and March 2005. I regret that this figure was incorrect.
A variety of procedures are used to remove tattoos, which are also used in the treatment of other skin conditions. NHS information systems do not record sufficient detail to allow distinction between procedures to remove tattoos and procedures to treat other skin conditions. The answer was based on a mistaken attempt to estimate the number of tattoos from the information on the wider grouping of skin procedures. That attempt was intended to be helpful, but ended up being misleading because it is not possible from the existing data sets to say with any precision how many tattoos are removed by the NHS each year, and secondly, because clinical advice is that it is likely to be a far smaller number than the figure given.
I have received a formal apology from the Information Centre, who accept full responsibility for providing an incorrect response to the parliamentary question.
The Information Centre and the Department of Health place the highest importance on the integrity of information and I have been assured by the chief executive of the Information Centre and the permanent secretary at the Department of Health that appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that a similar situation does not recur.
I apologise to the House for the error.