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ENERGY

Tritium

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what safeguards are currently applied to the storage and import of radioactive tritium in the United Kingdom ; what is the minimum amount of tritium loss from storage or transport that would trigger an investigation by Euratom, the International Atomic Energy Agency and Her Majesty's Government under the Zangeer trigger list ; and what communications he has had with the United States Department of Energy over the loss of tritium in transit from Oak Ridge national laboratories to the United Kingdom earlier in the current year.

Mr. Michael Spicer : Tritium is not subject to IAEA or Euratom safeguards and does not feature on the Zangeer committee trigger list.

Users of Tritium are either registered under the Radioactive Substance Act 1960 or, in the case of licensed nuclear installations, licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 ; and are regulated by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution or Her Majesty's nuclear installations inspectorate as appropriate. In all cases the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1985, which control the storage of, and provide for accountancy for, all radioactive substances apply. Exports of nuclear materials, equipment and technology are controlled under the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1987, through which we give effect to our international obligations. There is no evidence of any tritium being diverted.


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Officials of the United States Department of Energy met recently the United Kingdom Department of Energy and United Kingdom customers for United States Tritium to discuss measurement and auditing procedures.

Grimethorpe

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if he intends to assist the establishment of experimental fluidised bed combustion stations additional to that at Grimethorpe ;

(2) what research his Department has undertaken or commissioned into the building of pithead power stations.

Mr. Michael Spicer : On 24 August my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced financial support of up to £8 million to assist development of British Coal's topping cycle concept at the Grimethorpe test facility. This is an experimental fluidised bed combustion plant rather than a power station, and it is hoped that the concepts being developed there will be applied commercially, either at the pit head or elsewhere. Fluidised bed technology is proven and commercially available. The promotion of specific applications is a matter for industry, rather than Government.

Coal Mining

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list by regional area the numbers of mining jobs that have been lost during the last 10 years.

Mr. Michael Spicer : Average colliery manpower by British Coal area is shown each year in British Coal's annual report and accounts, copies of which are in the Library of the House.

Opencast Mining

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what are the planned future tonnages of opencast mining over (a) the next five years and (b) the next 10 years.

Mr. Michael Spicer : There is no Government target for opencast coal output. The overall level of opencast production will be determined by the market, subject to the need to obtain planning permission.

Acid Rain

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether any compensation has been paid by the United Kingdom to other countries for acid rain damage.

Mr. Michael Spicer : No.

Flue Gas Desulphurisation

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make it his policy to take charge of the management of implementation of the electricity supply industry flue gas desulphurisation programme.

Mr. Michael Spicer : No. Management of implementation of the flue gas desulphurisation programme is a matter for the industry itself.


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Switchgear

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy, further to his answer of Monday 27 November to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, how many disruptive failures of 11KV switchgear occurred in 1979 and each succeeding year.

Mr. Wakeham : It is not readily possible to provide annual statistics of the specific type and nature requested by the hon. Member for a period as long as 10 years. The number of incidents involving the disruptive failure of 11KV switchgear which have been notified to my Department since 1987, for the specific reporting periods indicated, are as follows :


                         |Number       

---------------------------------------

April 1987 to March 1988 |29           

April 1988 to March 1989 |4            

April 1989 to date       |25           

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many incidents in area electricity boards involving 11KV switchgear which would have given rise to injury, death, fire or explosion occurred in 1979 and each succeeding year.

Mr. Wakeham : It is not readily possible to provide annual statistics of the specific type and nature requested by the hon. Member for a period as long as 10 years. The number of incidents, however, notified to my Department since 1987 involving 11KV switchgear, which could have given rise to injury, death, fire or explosion, for the specific reporting periods indicated, are as follows :



                                  |1987-88|1988-89|1989 to        

                                                  | date          

------------------------------------------------------------------

Number of fatalities (public)     |0      |0      |0              

Number of fatalities (electricity                                 

 supply industry)                 |2      |0      |n/a            

                                                                  

Number of injuries (public)       |0      |0      |2              

Number of injuries (electricity                                   

 supply industry)                 |2      |2      |n/a            



                                  |1987-88|1988-89|1989 to        

                                                  | date          

------------------------------------------------------------------

Number of fatalities (public)     |0      |0      |0              

Number of fatalities (electricity                                 

 supply industry)                 |2      |0      |n/a            

                                                                  

Number of injuries (public)       |0      |0      |2              

Number of injuries (electricity                                   

 supply industry)                 |2      |2      |n/a            

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what investigations the engineering inspectorate of his Department carried out on 11KV switchgear in 1979 and each succeeding year.

Mr. Wakeham : The engineering inspectorate has carried out an average of eight investigations per annum since 1979 into incidents involving assets of the electricity supply industry and injury or fatality to members of the public. Only one of the investigations in this period has specifically involved 11KV switchgear. Incidents involving employees of the industry or their contractors while at work are investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. The engineering inspectorate, however, carries out periodic inspections of ESI assets, including 11KV switchgear, to ensure compliance with the Electricity Supply Regulations 1988. All the area electricity boards in


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England and Wales were, for example, visited between March and May this year, and a number of substations and overhead line support structures were inspected. A number of follow-up inspections arising from these visits have also been made.

Electricity Boards (Prosecutions)

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many prosecutions of electricity boards were initiated by his engineering inspectorate in 1979 and each succeeding year.

Mr. Wakeham : No prosecutions of the electricity boards were initiated by the engineering inspectorate of the Department of Energy between 1979 and 1988. One prosecution has been initiated so far in 1989.

Redundant Mineworkers

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how much the Government have paid out under the redundant mineworkers payment scheme in each year since its inception ; what is the latest estimate for the current year ; and what is his estimate for each year to 1993.

Mr. Wakeham : The total payments under the RMPS between 1968-69 and 1988-89 were £2,309 million. The estimates provision for 1989-90 is for payments of £132.5 million. Payments are projected to fall steadily to reach less than £90 million per year in the early 1990s.

Nuclear Companies

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what account will be taken in setting prices for the new national nuclear companies of (a) market-related factors and (b) cost-related factors.

Mr. Wakeham : Pricing is a matter for negotiation between Nuclear Electric and the area boards, subject to Government approval of the conclusions reached.

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether the new national nuclear companies will provide base load electricity to the grid.

Mr. Wakeham : Yes. Nuclear Electric plc will provide base load electricity.

British Coal

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what has been the effect of the interest rate increases of the past 18 months on the finances of British Coal.

Mr. Wakeham : This is a matter for British Coal. However, I can say that the increase in British Coal's external finance limit of £423 million which I announced on 23 November 1989 was intended to cover, among other things, the effect of an increase of £35 million in the corporation's annual interest bill caused by higher interest rates.

Research and Development

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what assessment his Department makes of the research and development programmes of each of the energy industries.


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Mr. Wakeham : My Advisory Council on Research and Development for Fuel and Power (ACORD) reviews annually the R & D programmes of the electricity supply industry and British Coal. After privatisation, the successor companies will determine their own R & D programmes. However, discussions with the ESI will continue to ensure that, where necessary, the national interest in long-term electricity R & D is protected through Government promotion of specific activities. My Department also collects and reviews information periodically on the R & D programmes of the oil and gas companies on the United Kingdom continental shelf.

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what percentage of his Department's research and development budget was devoted to (a) coal-fired generation and (b) nuclear power, in 1979 and each succeeding year.

Mr. Wakeham : The information requested is as follows :


Year             Proportion of D/Energy R & D expenditure       

                  on:                                           

                |nuclear        |coal technology                

                |Per cent.      |Per cent.                      

----------------------------------------------------------------

1979-80         |84.2           |1.0                            

1980-81         |85.1           |1.2                            

1981-82         |81.5           |1.8                            

1982-83         |85.2           |1.2                            

1983-84         |85.7           |1.3                            

1984-85         |84.6           |0.3                            

1985-86         |85.4           |0.3                            

1986-87         |83.0           |1.0                            

1987-88         |79.9           |0.8                            

1988-89         |81.3           |0.7                            

Source: Annual Review of Government Funded R & D Percentage for 

nuclear prior to 1986-87 is based on D/Energy grant to the      

UKAEA for R & D                                                 

The difference in the proportions of R & D expenditure allocated to either technology reflects both the difference in scale and expense of the research effort involved, and also the fact that much coal technology R & D was (and is) carried out by British Coal, the electricity supply industry, and the private sector. The Government's policy is to support R & D only where that is necessary to ensure that work in the national interest is done to an appropriate time scale.

Power Station Costs

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is his Department's latest estimate of the comparative cost per kilowatt hour of (a) nuclear power stations and (b) modern conventional stations.

Mr. Wakeham : The costs of electricity generation are a matter for the CEGB.

Engineering Inspectorate

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what is the establishment of professionally qualified staff in the engineering inspectorate of his Department ; and how many such staff are in post ;

(2) what is the establishment of the engineering inspectorate of his Department ; and how many staff are in post.

Mr. Wakeham : The establishment of the engineering inspectorate of the Department of Energy is for five


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professionally qualified electrical engineers, one administrative officer (full-time) and one administrative officer (part-time). At present there are four professionally qualified staff in post and one administrative officer (full-time).

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the maximum amount of time which can elapse between the occurrence of an incident which could give rise to injury, death, fire or explosion in an electricity board and the incident being reported to his engineering inspectorate.

Mr. Wakeham : Under the requirements of regulation 34(2)(e) of the Electricity Supply Regulations 1988 the reporting of incidents by an electricity board which could give rise to injury, death, fire or explosion must be in writing and sent to the Secretary of State within 15 days of the end of the month in which the event became known to the board.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what is the total tonnage of polychlorinated biphenyls in transformers owned by the area electricity boards and the Central Electricity Generating Board ;

(2) what percentage of transformers owned by (a) the area electricity boards and (b) the Central Electricity Generating Board contain polychlorinated biphenyls.

Mr. Wakeham : This is a matter for the electricity supply industry. I have therefore asked the chairmen of the Electricity Council and the CEGB to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Subsidence

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Waddlilove committee on subsidence.

Mr. Wakeham : Over half the recommendations of the Waddilove committee have already been implemented wholly or in part by British Coal. (For details, I refer the hon. Member to the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmore Port and Neston (Dr. Woodcock) on 12 January at columns 739-41 ). The Government's proposals for legislation concerning the remaining recommendations will be implemented as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits.

Electrical Manufacturers

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he or his predecessors last met representatives of United Kingdom electrical plant manufacturers ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wakeham : I meet representatives of the United Kingdom plant manufacturers from time to time, as did my predecessor.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the status of the report that his Department is preparing on possible further United


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Kingdom greenhouse gas emissions for the inter-governmental panel on climatic change ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wakeham : I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that the study entitled "An Evaluation of Energy Related Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Measures to Ameliorate Them" for the energy and industry subgroup of the response strategies working group of the UNEP/WMO intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) is now ready and has been sent to the IPCC. The United Kingdom along with certain other countries volunteered to submit such urgent studies in order to assist the subgroup in its work. The aim of the studies is to illustrate, from the national perspectives of participating countries, the practical technical options and their possible costs, which may be available to curtail emissions of the "greehouse" gases from the many energy-related activities of society.

Of necessity, the study has to consider the size of future emissions of the greenhouse gases and the shape of the then energy system, as background against which the technical measures can be analysed. Such scenarios of future emissions, being very dependent on the input assumptions, are intended to provide only a framework for assessing the options. They are not predictions of the future. Similarly the impact of any one technical option is uncertain ; and since each option in the paper has been considered in isolation it would be wrong to draw any conclusion from any combination of them. It is clear that the United Kingdom is responsible for only a fraction (approximately 3 per cent. of the world's CO emissions) and that this is likely to decline proportionately in the future. Therefore, tackling the problem of climate change needs truly international action, as all recent studies of the subject (including the recent valuable contribution from the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology) have stressed. That is why it is important for all countries to concentrate their efforts on the work of the IPCC. Once its advice is available, it will be for the international community to decide what measures should be taken, and how best individual countries can contribute to the global response. I have today placed a copy of the study report in the Library of the House.

HEALTH

Abortion

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what information he has as to the prevalance of the practice of killing unborn babies prior to abortion after 18 weeks by injecting a saline solution into the womb ; and whether this is in accordance with best practice as set out in guidance to abortionists by his Department ; (2) what information he has as to the prevalance of the practice of killing unborn babies prior to abortion after 18 weeks by injecting urea into the womb ; and whether this is in accordance with best practice as set out in guidance to abortionists by his Department.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The method of termination used in a particular case is a matter for the doctor concerned.


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The available information is that in England and Wales in 1988, 2, 501 abortions were carried out in which the use of urea was reported and 13 were carried out in which the use of saline was reported in conjunction with prostaglandins.

Speech Therapists

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of whether there are sufficient trained speech therapists to perform their duties within the Leicestershire health authority ; what is the total current number on establishment ; and how far that establishment is filled.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : It is for health authorities to determine their staffing levels for particular services. Leicestershire health authority has a funded establishment of 45 whole-time equivalent trained speech therapists and there are currently 38 whole-time equivalent trained staff in post.

Hospitals

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will ensure that development plans he has approved for Whipps Cross hospital do not include reprovision of any service currently provided by Wanstead hospital ; and if he will make it his policy not to approve any decision to close Wanstead hospital.

Mr. Freeman : Phase 1 of the Whipps Cross hospital development was approved by Ministers in February 1988 and is due to open in 1990. This development does not include any plans for alteration in services currently provided by Wanstead hospital. We have received no plans from North East Thames regional health authority proposing any other major changes to services in Waltham Forest district health authority.

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the reasons for the most recent declaration of a red alert at Whipps Cross hospital ; and if he will consider additional action to get the hospital through the winter without having to declare a further red alert.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The latest red alert at Whipps Cross is due to higher than normal levels of emergency admissions. Waltham Forest health authority has implemented the red alert to ensure that in-patient services for emergency and urgent admissions are fully maintained whilst causing the least possible disruption to patient services. The health authority will continue to operate a flexible bed allocation policy as has been the practice in previous years.

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his responsibility in the case of a health authority that does not commit sufficient resources to a hospital to maintain its fabric and services and to retain staff.

Mr. Freeman : It is for regional and district health authorities to allocate resources to hospitals ensuring that services best meet the needs of the patients they serve.

Blind or Partially Sighted People

Mr. John Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many people are registered blind in St. Helens and Knowsley health authority ;


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(2) what is the total number of people, in percentage and in numerical terms, in the population with a severe sight impairment.

Mr. Freeman : The number of people in England registered with local authorities as blind or partially sighted is published in "Registered Blind and Partially Sighted Persons at 31 March 1988 England", a copy of which is in the Library. This shows that

(a) the number of persons registered as blind within the boundaries of St. Helens and Knowsley health authority at that date is 713 ; and

(b) the total number of people in England registered as blind or partially sighted at that date is 205,876. This represents 0.4 per cent. of the estimated England population. However, not all blind or partially sighted people register with local authorities and the proportion who do not register is unknown.

Ambulance Service

Mr. Ralph Howell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many ambulance personnel were employed in each of the last 10 years in both (a) actual terms and (b) full-time equivalents.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The information is given in the table :


NHS ambulance staff in post at 30  

September 1979 to 1988             

England                            

Numbers                            

-----------------------------------

1979   |3,178 |13,997|17,175       

1980   |3,232 |14,580|17,812       

1981   |3,206 |15,059|18,265       

1982   |3,285 |15,135|18,420       

1983   |3,273 |15,245|18,518       

1984   |3,206 |15,059|18,265       

1985   |3,172 |15,220|18,392       

1986   |3,165 |16,227|19,392       

1987   |3,086 |16,592|19,678       

1988   |3,032 |16,357|19,389       

Source: Department of Health (     

SM13) annual census of NHS         

non-medical manpower.              


NHS ambulance staff in post at 30  

September 1979 to 1988             

England                            

Numbers                            

-----------------------------------

1979   |3,178 |13,997|17,175       

1980   |3,232 |14,580|17,812       

1981   |3,206 |15,059|18,265       

1982   |3,285 |15,135|18,420       

1983   |3,273 |15,245|18,518       

1984   |3,206 |15,059|18,265       

1985   |3,172 |15,220|18,392       

1986   |3,165 |16,227|19,392       

1987   |3,086 |16,592|19,678       

1988   |3,032 |16,357|19,389       

Source: Department of Health (     

SM13) annual census of NHS         

non-medical manpower.              

Mr. Hoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will place a copy of the document "The London Ambulance Service in the Nineties : Management Proposals" in the Library ; how many district health


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authorities in London will be affected by the proposals contained in the document ; and whether similar proposals are being prepared or discussed for any other regions.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The document "The London Ambulance Service in the Nineties" is a public document which is available on request from South West Thames RHA. I am arranging for a copy to be placed in the Library.

South West Thames is currently discussing the proposals it contains with the three other Thames regions. In all, 32 DHAs are served by the London ambulance service.

A number of other regional health authorities are reviewing the management arrangements of their regionally managed ambulance services in line with the Department's circular EL(89)MB/59, a copy of which is in the Library.

Mr. Hoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he has any plans to proceed with the privatisation or contracting out of non- emergency ambulance services.

Mr. Freeman : Health authorities were advised in 1984 that it was open to them to buy-in part of the ambulance service if that was more cost effective and provided that the quality of service was maintained. A number of NHS ambulance authorities are using private contractors, the hospital car service and the voluntary aid societies to transport appropriate NHS patients. The proposals in the National Health Service and Community Care Bill currently before Parliament offer a further opportunity for authorities to re-appraise their non-emergency patient transport services.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies have been carried out by his Department of the costs benefits and processes of privatising ambulance services ; when these studies started and were completed ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : No such studies into the ambulance service have been carried out. However, in 1983, a Rayner scrutiny of the non- emergency ambulance service recommended that budgets for transport should be introduced at unit or clinical level and that it would be for managers at that level to buy in part of the ambulance service of other public agencies or the private sector if that was more cost effective and provided that the quality of service was maintained. Health authorities were advised accordingly in 1984. A scheme for charging the cost of non-emergency ambulance services to units has been piloted in the West Midlands RHA and a full report of the results is expected shortly.

Nurse Prescribing

Sir David Price : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to publish the report of the special advisory groups on nurse prescribing, chaired by Dr. June Gown ; and when and in what form he proposes to bring forward the necessary legislative changes.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The advisory group's report will be published and distributed for comment within the next few weeks. The Department is considering the implications of the report, including the legislative changes that will be needed if the group's proposals are adopted.


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Speech Therapists

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the average waiting time for a child to have a first consultation with a trained speech therapist today ; and what was the figure five years ago.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : This information is not available centrally.

Fostering (Bolton)

Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children are currently in foster care in the Bolton area ; what proportion are in long-term foster care ; and how many foster parents are currently going through the process of adoption of such children.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The number of children in care in the metropolitan district of Bolton who were boarded out with foster parents at 31 March 1988 was 155. Information is not available centrally about what proportion of these children was in long-term foster care or how many foster parents were going through the process of adoption of such children.

Community Health Services

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements he will make to ensure that community health services are provided locally by all district authorities as part of their core services.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : It will be the responsibility of every district health authority to ensure that its population has access to a comprehensive range of services, including community health services. Many services such as community health services will need to be provided locally either for clinical reasons, because of the nature of the service or for the convenience of patients and their relatives. District health authorities will be expected to arrange a pattern of services which secures local access where this is needed and at the same time gives patients and their GPs the maximum possible choice. DHAs performance in obtaining the most appropriate pattern of services will be monitored through the review processes. The concept of "core services" is not relevant to this process in most circumstances. The term "core service" applies only to services which an NHS trust will, if necessary, be required to provide because local access is essential and there is no appropriate alternative provider available.

Rehabilitation

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what definition of rehabilitation is used by his Department ; and how he intends to ensure that it is carried out effectively.

Mr. Freeman : Within the Department rehabilitation is taken to mean the complex of measures and activities aimed at helping disabled and handicapped people achieve the highest level of physical, psychological and social adaption and integration. We intend to ensure it is carried out effectively by continuing to bring about the improvements in health and social services outlined in two recent White Papers "Working for Patients" and "Caring for People" and by liaising with other Government Departments as and when necessary.


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General Practitioners' Contract

Mr. Macdonald : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what provision has been made in the new general practitioners' contract for the reimbursement of the salary of doctors' wives working in their surgeries ;

(2) what provision has been made in the new general practitioners' contract for the direct reimbursement of ancillary staff salaries.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : From 1 April 1990, restrictions on the number and type of staff for whom general practitioners may receive direct reimbursement will be removed. Within their cash allocations, family practitioner committees and health boards will be able to authorise reimbursement for whatever staff they and general practitioners consider best for the provision of care in the area served. These new arrangements which are set out in the statement of fees and allowances payable from 1 April 1990 are the same for doctors' wives who work in the surgery as for other practice staff.


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