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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the Government will announce plans relating to a licensing system for property in multiple occupancy. 
Mr. Mullin: We issued a consultation paper last year setting out detailed proposals, and will announce conclusions in due course. We remain firmly committed to legislation when parliamentary time allows.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if the Government approve the discharge of the 1998 Community Budget; and what representations it has made on the issue. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.
The Government's Annual Statement on European Community Finances (Cmnd 4771) covers the process of recommending discharges for the 1998 Community Budget.
14. Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he next plans to visit Redbridge and Waltham Forest Health Authority to discuss pressures on local hospitals. 
Mr. Denham: We have no immediate plans to visit Redbridge and Waltham Forest Health Authority.
15. Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about the availability of hospital beds in Barnet Health Authority area. 
Mr. Denham: Work is currently under way to ensure that an additional 45 beds are in place on the Barnet hospital site in time for the winter. Funding has also been approved for a further 15 beds on the same site which can be used during peaks in demand.
16. Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on NHS waiting times. 
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Mr. Denham: The average waiting time for those on the inpatient list has fallen. At the end of August the average wait was 13 weeks, two weeks less than in June 1998.
The waiting list is currently 120,000 below the level inherited. We have met and maintained our manifesto commitment to reduce waiting lists by 100,000 from the level inherited.
24. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about out-patient waiting times. 
Mr. Denham: At the end of June this year there were 68,000 fewer people waiting longer than 13 weeks for an appointment than at the September 1999 peak.
19. Mr. Best: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that incompetent doctors are not allowed to continue in practice. 
Mr. Denham: As part of a package of reforms for protecting patients, the Government have changed the law so that the General Medical Council can swiftly impose interim suspensions or conditions where the doctor represents a danger to patients.
From next April, the new National Clinical Assessment Authority will assess poor clinical performance cases and recommend remedial action.
21. Mr. Tony Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the link between poverty and health in Manchester. 
Mr. Denham: There are a number of social, economic and environmental factors which contribute to poor health in Manchester. Both the White Paper, "Our Healthier Nation", and the NHS Plan acknowledge the links between poverty and health. A series of inter-departmental initiatives are in place to tackle the underlying inequalities, for example the Manchester, Salford and Trafford health action zone, the Healthy Cities programme and the New Deal for communities.
22. Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress is being made in reducing out-patient waiting lists in the North-west. 
Mr. Denham: Reducing waiting time for outpatient appointments is a Government priority. In the North-west, measures have been implemented including Outpatient Improvement Plans, an additional investment of £13 million on schemes having a direct impact on outpatient waiting times, and the sharing of good practice through "A Step by Step guide to improving outpatient services". Between June 1999 and June 2000, despite increased demand, these initiatives have been successful in reducing by 7,292 (8.8 per cent.) the number of patients waiting more than 13 weeks for an outpatient appointment. The NHS is aiming to achieve further reductions by March 2001.
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23. Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had, and with whom, about improving long-term care and health care for elderly people. 
Mr. Hutton: I have regular contact with NHS, social services and voluntary sector to discuss the Government's plans to improve long-term care and healthcare for older people. Yesterday I met with key stakeholders from the voluntary sector, local government and the professions to discuss the implementation of our long-term care proposals.
25. Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about progress by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in eliminating prescribing based on postcode areas. 
Mrs. Gorman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about progress by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in eliminating postcode prescribing. 
Mr. Denham: I welcome the progress which the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has already made. Authoritative, evidence-based guidance has been issued on a wide range of subjects including drug treatments. We have provided additional funding to enable the NHS to implement these recommendations and will be following up through performance management to ensure that they are taken up.
26. Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many registered drug-user patients are being supplied diamorphine (heroin) on the NHS; and what is the total cost. 
Mr. Denham: Diamorphine, in the treatment of drug addiction, is used as part of a maintenance regime in a very small minority of patients, who are generally the most difficult cases. The Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) Regulations 1997 require that only medical practitioners who hold a special licence issued by the Home Secretary may prescribe, administer or supply diamorphine in the treatment of drug addiction; other practitioners must refer any addict who requires these drugs to a treatment centre.
Diamorphine is also used for analgesia in palliative care. General practitioners and other doctors may prescribe diamorphine for patients (including addicts) for relief of pain without a special licence.
The total cost of diamorphine treatment for drug addiction cannot be calculated accurately as data are not collected centrally which link prescription to diagnosis.
27. Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his plans to increase facilities for the training of dentists in sedation techniques. 
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Mr. Hutton: We have accepted the recommendations in the report from the review of general anaesthesia and sedation for dental treatment, which was led by the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer. We want to see methods of pain and anxiety control other than general anaesthesia used whenever possible and are exploring the need, and ways, for increasing the provision of training in sedation.
28. Valerie Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to combat winter pressures in the acute hospital sector. 
Ms Stuart: The National Health Service has been planning for this winter for some time, working closely with social services and building on experience over previous years. All NHS trusts are members of local winter planning groups, working with other health and social services organisations. We have provided an additional £660 million to provide additional capacity both for winter and to meet demand throughout the year. This funding includes £60 million for an improved flu campaign and £142.5 million to provide over 340 additional adult critical care beds.
29. Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his plans for the regulation of the professional standards of health professionals. 
Mr. Denham: We have published for consultation, plans for modernising the regulation of nurses, midwives and health visitors and of the professions supplementary to medicine. The consultation period ends on 1 November. Specific proposals for legislation will subsequently be issued for further consultation.
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