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Health Trusts (Assets)

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assets currently in the hands of health trusts are being considered for transfer to the private sector; and if he will make a statement. [14075]

Mr. Milburn: The value of surplus or redundant assets owned by National Health Service trusts can form part of the negotiations between the trust and the private sector in a Private Finance Initiative deal, but any such assets must be sold or disposed of at open market value.

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health to what time scale the review of assets is being conducted; how much the review is expected to cost; and if he will make a statement. [14105]

Mr. Milburn: The next periodic revaluation of National Health Service land and buildings to take place in summer 1999 to allow NHS trusts, health authorities and other NHS bodies to establish accurate fixed asset values as of 31 March 2000. The exercise is expected to cost in the region of £2.25 million.

NHS Patients

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many patients he estimates will require NHS treatment in each of the next five years; [14458]

Mr. Milburn: The health service will treat more patients over the next five years. The Government's election manifesto stated that the Government will raise

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spending on the National Health Service in real terms every year, and put money towards patient care. The manifesto also made clear our commitment to the historic principle of the NHS:

We intend to keep to these promises.

Waiting Lists

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients he estimates will be on NHS waiting lists on 30 April 2002. [14460]

Mr. Milburn: Despite the dreadful situation we inherited from our predecessors we are committed to having shorter waiting lists by the end of this Parliament.

National Blood Service

Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) hospitals and (b) NHS trusts have signed their annual contract with the National Blood Service (i) nationally and (ii) in each zone. [14456]

Mr. Boateng: The information is not collected in the form requested. However, details of the number of contracts signed for 1997-98 are as follows:

London and South East110
Midlands and South West21

A further 22 contracts have been agreed, but not yet signed.

To address the problems involved in the present arrangements, a working group has been set up to agree a common framework for commissioning and for national prices.

Air Pollution

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the Under-Secretary of State's letter of 22 October, (MR/EE/PSO/14053/97), what interim action he is taking as a result of the Poloniecki study on air pollution. [14462]

Ms Jowell: The Poloniecki study on the effects of air pollution on heart disease is currently being considered by the Department of Health's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP). I shall write to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow with the Committee's views as soon as possible.

As part of the review of the National Air Quality Strategy the effects of carbon monoxide and particles on health will be examined. The Poloniecki study will form part of the research literature that will be considered.

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Emergency Services

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the final report of the group led by the Chief Medical Officer into the provision of emergency services in the community will be published; and if he will make a statement. [14487]

Mr. Boateng: The report was published on 19 September this year under the title 'Developing Emergency Services in the Community: The Final report' and was distributed widely within the National Health Service under cover of an Executive Letter, EL(97)46. Copies of the report and the letter have been placed in the Library.

As part of the implementation programme, the Department of Health is funding telephone immediate care and advice lines to be piloted in three sites from early next year.

Prescription Charges

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will review regulations whereby two or more prescription charges are payable when two or more medicines are prescribed in circumstances where medicines are in one pack and cannot be taken separately. [14698]

Mr. Milburn: This and all other aspects of prescription charges are being considered as part of the Department of Health's Comprehensive Spending Review. We aim to complete the review by next spring. The Government remain committed to the historic principle of the National Health Service that health services will be available to all and access will be based on need, not on ability to pay.

Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals

NHS Trust

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to announce the appointment of the next chairman of the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Trust. [14473]

Mr. Milburn: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will shortly be considering recommendations for this post. An announcement will be made as soon as possible.

NHS Appointments

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what notice he plans to give to NHS trust and health authority members on their reappointment. [14583]

Mr. Milburn: We would normally prefer to give advance notice to serving members of National Health Service boards on whether they are to be reappointed. Trust appointments have been delayed this year because of the introduction of new criteria for board membership, and the need to consider new candidates arising from over

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1,800 nominations by Members of Parliament and local authorities. Apart from exceptional cases, these appointments will be confirmed very shortly.

Health Authority Contracts

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list, by health care provider, for each of the last four years, the number of contracts each health authority had in place, indicating how many of these had been referred for arbitration within the NHS region; and how many were left unsigned by (a) the provider and (b) the purchaser at the end of the year to which they applied, or for 1997-98, at the end of October 1997. [14611]

Mr. Milburn: The information requested may be collected at a regional level but it is at the discretion of the regional office and is not authorised or validated centrally.

Solihull Hospital

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the range of services provided to patients by Solihull Hospital. [13798]

Mr. Milburn: The range of services provided by Solihull Hospital is as follows:

Paint (Calcium Hydroxide)

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to encourage the use of paint containing calcium hydroxide on hospital (a) surfaces, (b) walls and (c) air ducts; and if he will make a statement; [13802]

Mr. Milburn: The Department of Health is aware of the advances of technology in paint manufacture. The view of the Department's expert advisers is that wall and floor surfaces in hospitals, in practice, play little part in the transmission of infection, including Staphylococcus aureus. Aspergillus niger is a very uncommon cause of infection in hospitals. The source of such fungal spores is generally outside air.

Duct coating designed to inactivate suspended microbes will make insufficient contact to produce significant reduction in their numbers.

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Patients with severely reduced immunity, such as bone marrow transplant patients, are particularly prone to A. niger. Units for such patients are generally supplied with air that has passed through High Efficiency Particulate Air filters, tested to British Standard BS3928, located in ductwork. Such filters are highly effective at removing airborne microbial contamination, including spores of A. niger.

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