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Age Discrimination

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to his oral answer of 22 May 1997, Official Report, columns 825-26, what was the form of the consultation process into age discrimination in employment; if he will make a statement on the meetings that have taken place as part of the consultation process indicating the individuals and organisations met and the date when such meetings occurred; and if he will make a statement on (a) visits to and (b) other contact with individuals and organisations under the consultation process to date. [25658]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The consultation on age discrimination in employment has not been restricted to visits and meetings solely concerned with older workers. It has been, and continues to be, broad-based in order to gain a wide variety of views so that a consensus may be established on how best to tackle the problems of age discrimination in employment. In addition, I have met with, and visited, a variety of organisations concerned with age discrimination and groups of older workers. These include Age Concern, the Third Age Challenge Trust and the Employers Forum on Age. On 27 October 1997, I held a meeting with a range of key figures from business, the lobby and other interested parties. The consultation is continuing into the Spring and I intend to hold another consultation meeting in the near future.

Scottish Executive

Mr. Swinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to his answer of 20 January 1998, Official Report, column 492, (1) when discussion began in his Department concerning the non-statutory agreement with the Scottish Executive; on what dates discussions took place; and who was present at such meetings; [25576]

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Dr. Howells: Discussions are being held between departments, both at official level and at Ministerial level, on all matters relating to non-statutory agreements between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive. In most cases, these discussions are in their early stages in the light of the fact that such agreements cannot be finalised until the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive are established. Parliament will be kept informed of progress on these matters.

HEALTH

Hospitals (Greater London)

16. Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to publish the conclusions of his review of hospital facilities in Greater London. [23430]

Mr. Milburn: We will be publishing the report of the independent review panel, and the Government's response, shortly.

Tobacco Advertising

18. Mr. Barron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the outcome of negotiations on the European Community tobacco advertising directive. [23432]

Ms Jowell: I attended the Health Council on 4 December, where a common position was agreed on the proposed tobacco advertising Directive. This text will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Government will continue to work hard to achieve final adoption of this very important piece of European legislation.

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Hospital Waiting Lists

19. Mr. Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people had been waiting for operations for over 18 months at the latest available date. [23433]

Mr. Milburn: Waiting time information collected centrally does not show separately those patients waiting for operations. The latest published figures show that, on 30 September 1997, 794 patients were waiting 18 months or more for admission to hospital. We are determined that by the end of March no patients will be required to wait that long.

GP Fundholding

20. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff his Department anticipates will be made redundant as a result of the ending of general practitioner fundholding. [23435]

Mr. Milburn: In our White Paper "The New NHS" we said we would discuss transitional arrangements with those concerned. This includes arrangements for fundholding staff to enable those skilled in primary care commissioning to be retained wherever possible at the practice, Primary Care Group or health authority level.

Liverpool Blood Centre

21. Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the Cash report on services at the Liverpool blood centre will be published. [23436]

Mr. Boateng: Professor Cash is currently finalising his Report. We will publish the report and our response to it as soon as we have considered his recommendations.

Additional Support (Winter)

22. Mr. Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the impact of the additional support to the health service to meet winter pressures for the current year. [23437]

25. Ms Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many on the schemes funded through the extra money made available to the NHS for winter pressures promote greater co-operation between health and social services. [23440]

Mr. Milburn: The additional £300 million made available across the Untied Kingdom in the current financial year has helped achieve better joint working between the National Health Service and Social Services Departments. In England alone, there are almost 1,500 initiatives and some £35 to £40 million of the additional money is being transferred to social services. Over the Christmas and New Year period, joint working arrangements between health and social services were greatly improved on previous years.

Reference Costs

23. Mr. Ivan Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he intends to take to introduce a national schedule of reference costs in the NHS. [23438]

Mr. Milburn: The National Health Service Executive has developed a work programme to deliver an initial reference cost schedule, by August 1998. This will cover

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all surgical, and limited medical, inpatient and day case activity. It is intended to extend the services included within the shortest practical timescale.

NHS (Innovation)

24. Mr. Derek Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to promote innovation in the NHS. [23439]

Mr. Milburn: Specific measures outlined in "The New National Health Service" to promote innovation include ensuring the NHS locally no longer treats its best ideas as commercially confidential; a National Institute for Clinical Excellence to give new coherence to the clinical effectiveness programme; and a new database to improve access to research findings.

Funding (East Sussex)

26. Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the funding available to the East Sussex, Brighton and Hove health authority for 1998-99. [23441]

Mr. Milburn: The 1998-99 Hospital and Community Health Services general revenue allocation for East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority is £372.5 million, which represents a cash increase of £16.6 million (4.67 per cent.), or £6.6 million (1.86 per cent.) in real terms.

Health Care (Rationing)

27. Mr. Day: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the rationing of health care in the NHS. [23442]

Mr. Milburn: For most people, most services are available in most places now. There are, however, unacceptable variations in access to some services and to the most effective treatments. Our aim is to improve this. We will take action to ensure that the most effective services are available across the country. We will work with the professions to produce national clinical guidelines and service frameworks to improve national consistency.

Social Services

28. Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to promote better co-operation between health authorities and social services. [23443]

Mr. Boateng: Promoting partnership and cooperation is one of the key priorities we have identified in the National Health Service Priorities and Planning Guidance. We continue to pursue a number of initiatives to assist authorities to develop practical collaboration, for example through formal guidance and locality workshops.

Most importantly, partnership is integral to our broader development agenda. It is an essential theme within the White Paper, "The New NHS", which includes proposals for a new statutory duty of partnership between the NHS and social services. We have set in train a number of specific initiatives relevant to better co-operation between

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health and local authorities: for example Health Action Zones, Better Services for Vulnerable People and our Primary Care Act pilot schemes.


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