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Mr. Denham: This is a matter of clinical judgment for optometrists and ophthalmic medical practitioners. In order to ensure probity, we have proposed that a requirement be introduced for a practitioner to give a reason when claiming for a National Health Service sight test at an interval of less than two years since the previous test. Officials will be meeting with representatives of the professions to discuss this proposal on 12 July.
Mr. Hutton: Departmental officials have recently met with representatives from the Joint Epilepsy Council (JEC) to discuss the findings of the Clinical Standards Advisory Group report and take stock of recent service developments and medical research. As a result of this meeting, officials will be working with the JEC to establish the best way forward.
Mr. Denham [holding answer 4 July 2000]: Eighty- seven major hospital developments (over £25 million at current prices) have taken place and become operational since 1980. Details are set out in the table. The low figure for 1999 is a consequence of the small number of major hospital developments which started during 1996 and 1997. This was due to all major developments having to test for private funding during this time.
Since 1 May 1997, 38 major hospital developments worth over £3.1 billion have been given the go ahead. The introduction of the private finance initiative into the National Health Service capital building programme will result in a dramatic increase in the number of major hospital developments in future years. The first of these developments, the new hospital at Carlisle, was officially opened on 16 June 2000.
|Year||Number of major hospital developments completed|
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Mr. Denham: Our proposals for modernising National Health Service pay, which were published in February 1999 in "Agenda for Change", include bringing some groups of highly qualified staff within the scope of the Nursing Pay Review Body (NRPB), without changing its fundamentally professional character.
Initial discussions with NHS trade unions on pay modernisation resulted in a Joint Framework of Principles and Agreed Statement on the Way Forward, which was published on 8 October 1999. This sets out the following starting point for more detailed discussions with trade unions on the qualifying criteria for groups to come within the scope of the NRPB:
Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the cost was of the report his Department commissioned the National Health Service Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York to prepare, into the safety and efficacy of fluoride in drinking water; if the work being undertaken is (a) new research or (b) a review of existing research; and if animal testing forms a part of this research; 
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Yvette Cooper: The contract for the review was for £79,648. The review has been considering existing research rather than undertaking new research. To structure its approach the centre has concentrated on primary research on the effect of fluoride on populations which have been exposed to fluoridated water. The report is due to reach the Department later this month and should be published shortly afterwards. We will take decisions on the way forward after having considered the report.
Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his Department's policy towards the British Fluoridation Society; and what contributions were made to the Society by the Government in each year since 1975-76. 
Yvette Cooper: The main role the Department funds the British Fluoridation Society to fulfil, is to collect and maintain evidence on the effects of fluoridation. Our support for the British Fluoridation Society since 1975-76 has been:
Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what budget he has set for expenditure under the national changeover plan in anticipation of joining the single European currency; and how much has been spent to date; 
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Mr. Hutton: We have no plans to appoint a children's commission for England, although as our response to the Waterhouse Report made clear, we are keeping this matter under review. In the meantime, we have already embarked on a major programme to improve children's services and strengthen the safeguards protecting children from abuse.
We consider that this ambitious legislative and policy programme which includes the Care Standards Bill, the Children (Leaving Care) Bill, the Protection of Children Act 1978, the £375 million Quality Protects programme and the new Children's Rights Director post within the National Care Standards Commission together amount to a step-change in the provision of safeguards for children.
Mr. Ronnie Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have died from overdoses of prescribed medication in the Northumberland health authority area in each of the last three years. 
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