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Public Bodies

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the number of (a) non-departmental public bodies and (b) task forces in Scotland (i) on 1 May 1997, (ii) on 1 May 1998 and (iii) at the latest date for which figures are available. [102489]

Dr. Reid: The table sets out the number of non- departmental public bodies in Scotland:

At 1 April 1997242
At 1 April 1998208
At 1 April 1999188

Details of task forces announced before 1 May 1997 are not held centrally. Since 1 May 1997, a total of six task forces have been announced.

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Beef Ban

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he was first informed of the offer made to the Prime Minister by the French Government to lift the ban on the import of grass-fed beef from Scotland. [103661]

Dr. Reid: The French Government did not make a formal offer to lift the ban on the import of grass-fed beef from Scotland.


Ill Health (Incomes)

12. Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to measure the links between low incomes and ill health. [102273]

Yvette Cooper: One of our first actions in Government was to commission Sir Donald Acheson to undertake an "Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health". Sir Donald's report was published in November 1998. The report clearly identifies the significance of income as one of the wider determinants of health and recommends action to tackle this.

The Government are taking measures to tackle low income. These include the Minimum Income Guarantee, Winter Fuel Payments for Pensioners, Working Families Tax Credit, National Minimum Wage, Sure Start and an increase in Child Benefit. A first annual report, "Opportunity for all--Tackling Poverty and Social Exclusion", was published in September.

NHS Direct

18. Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was each monthly total for calls to NHS Direct. [102279]

Ms Stuart: In October 1999, NHS Direct handled 109,000 calls. I expect that by the end of this year, NHS Direct will have helped around 1 million callers since the service began. From December this year, NHS Direct has been extended to cover over 65 per cent. of the population of England. The scope of the service has also been extended by the publication in December of the NHS Direct Healthcare Guide and the launch of NHS Direct on-line. This means that a greater proportion of the population will have access to high quality health care information and advice.

Organ Donation

19. Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on organ donation. [102280]

Mr. Denham: We are concerned about the shortages of organs for transplantation. That is why last year we launched our campaign to encourage people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register, to carry the Donor Card and, most importantly, make their wishes known to their family and friends. In February, this was reinforced by

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action specifically targeted at the South Asian community where the shortage of donated organs is particularly marked. We are also planning a further campaign informing clinicians about best practice in requesting organ donation.

We are looking at a range of options for increasing the supply of organs for transplantation. We have, however, always stated that any measure aimed at increasing donation must command public confidence.

We are grateful to my hon. Friend for the proposal he is investigating with the British Bankers' Association to include an Organ Donation Logo on credit cards and are happy to offer him every encouragement.

Eye Tests

20. Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many eye tests have been carried out on people aged over 65 years since April. [102281]

Mr. Hutton: We estimate that, since April, some 50,000 more people have been receiving National Health Service sight tests each week following our decision to extend eligibility for NHS tests to everyone aged 60 or over. Most of these patients will have been aged over 65.

Private Medical Services

21. Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the protection of patients using private medical services. [102282]

Ms Stuart: We are determined to give the public proper protection and have set out our plans for improvements to the regulation of private and voluntary healthcare in the Care Standards Bill. Among other things we will:

    introduce national minimum standards with which registered establishments will have to comply;

    ensure that all establishments have proper complaints procedures as a condition of registration;

    widen the scope of regulation particularly to include private primary medical care.

Local Authority Social Care

22. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the standards of local authority social care. [102283]

24. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the standards of local authority social care. [102285]

Mr. Hutton: We are taking a range of measures to drive up standards in social services. There will be a new independent regulation system for care homes, children's homes and other care services, including those directly provided by local authorities, based on national standards. The Fair Access to Care initiative will require local authorities to apply eligibility criteria consistently around the country. Our proposed Quality Strategy for Social Services will help raise local standards.

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The implementation of these initiatives will be monitored closely. For the first time there is a comprehensive performance assessment system for social services, built around the Best Value regime.

38. Mr. Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his guidance on the standards of local authority social care. [102299]

Mr. Hutton: On 8 September the Department issued the consultation document, "Fit for the Future?--National Required Standards for Residential and Nursing Homes for Older People", which sets out proposals to promote better quality care and help to prevent abuse by grounding practice on the principles of dignity, choice, privacy and respect. They will guarantee residents access to an effective complaints procedure. The standards will also ensure that residents are cared for by trustworthy and reliable staff who are properly trained for this difficult and sensitive job.

"Fit for the Future?" contains over 250 proposed national standards and we look forward to receiving comments on the whole range of proposals. We will carefully consider all the comments we receive before finalising the standards and the timetable for implementing them. The standards will apply to all provision whether private, voluntary or statutory.

Primary Health Care

23. Mrs. Fyfe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about raising standards of primary health care in the NHS. [102284]

Mr. Denham: Improving quality across the National Health Service, including in primary care, is at the heart of this Government's modernisation programme, as set out in "A First Class Service: Quality in the new NHS".

Locally, all NHS bodies have a duty to put arrangements in place to assure and improve the quality of care they provide by establishing arrangements for clinical governance.

Centrally, we have established the National Institute for Clinical Excellence; a programme of National Service Frameworks; and the Commission for Health Improvement.

Cervical Cancer

25. Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to incorporate the human papilloma test in cervical cancer screening. [102286]

Yvette Cooper: An outline proposal on pilot studies using HPV testing as triage for mild and borderline smears was discussed at the National Screening Committee's meeting in Belfast on 8 December 1999. The Health Departments are now considering their advice, and we hope to make a statement shortly.

Community Hospital Services

26. Dr. Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has for developing community hospital services. [102287]

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Mr. Denham: Our vision for a faster, fairer, more convenient National Health Service includes an important role for community hospitals, provided they meet appropriate quality, fairness and efficiency tests, and they are in the right place to meet the needs of local people for modern services.

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