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11. Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his plans are for reducing maximum waiting times (a) between GP referral and hospital consultant appointment and (b) between hospital consultant appointment and operation or treatment. 
Mr. Denham: In our NHS Plan, published last year, we promised that by the end of 2005 the maximum wait for a routine out-patient appointment will be three months, compared with over six months today, and that the maximum wait for in-patient treatment will be six months, compared with 18 months today.
Ms Stuart: Planning guidance, issued on 15 February, requires health authorities, in partnership with councils, to consider the action required to achieve the NHS Plan objectives that there should be an extra 2,100 general and acute beds and 5,000 extra intermediate care beds by 2004. Copies of the guidance are available in the Library.
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Yvette Cooper: A number of schemes are currently under way to help improve hospital facilities at the Warrington General Hospital. These include the purchase of the Daresbury Wing which can now provide orthopaedic surgery as well as improved ophthalmology facilities. Approval has also been given to the outline business case for a substantial redevelopment of the hospital's accident and emergency department.
15. Mr. Best: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will examine the handling by the NHS of the medical needs of Mrs. Mary O'Donnell, a constituent of the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West. 
Mr. Hutton: We are aware of the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Mary O'Donnell's treatment by the National Health Service and have every sympathy with people who suffer adversely as a consequence of medical treatment. The responsibility for the handling of Mrs. O'Donnell's medical needs rests with her local clinicians and we understand that she has annual hospital appointments to monitor her progress.
16. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to enable (a) IVF treatment and (b) breast reduction operations to be made available throughout the country. 
Yvette Cooper: We are asking the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce guidance on the management of infertility to improve services and reduce the postcode lottery in this area of health care.
Mr. Denham: Latest figures (Hospital and Community Health Services Workforce Census 2000) show that the number of nurses working in the NHS has increased significantly by 6,310 (1.9 per cent. between 1999 and 2000). This represents progress towards the NHS Plan work force target of 20,000 (headcount) extra nurses and midwives by 2004 and means there are now over 17,100 more nurses since 1997.
Mr. Denham: The NHS Plan set out to increase the number of nurses and midwives by 20,000 (headcount) from 1999 to 2004. We have already made substantial progress towards this target. From 1999 to 2000, the number of nurses has increased by 6,310.
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Mr. Denham: The new £93 million Private Finance Initiative-funded hospital at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich will be fully operational from 1 April 2001. The new hospital will provide improved quality of services and environment, and will speed the progress of modernisation for the residents of Greenwich.
Ms Stuart: Chapter 10 of the NHS Plan states that Patient Advocacy and Liaison Services (PALS) will be established in every Trust, beginning with every major hospital, by 2002. It is anticipated that Primary Care Trusts will also have PALS services available by that date. Health authorities will be working with Primary Care Groups to ensure that they make PALS services available in the run up to them reaching PCT status.
Yvette Cooper: The health authorities responsible for commissioning neurology services in south Yorkshire are working collaboratively to achieve a common approach to the procurement and development of the service provided in Sheffield. The recently announced National Service Framework for long-term health conditions will focus on the needs of people with neurological conditions.
Mr. Denham: The number of consultants in the NHS has increased by 2,940 since 1997. We are committed to further increases as part of the NHS Plan--by 2004 there will be 7,500 more consultants working in the NHS. This will be helped by encouraging flexible careers and, in the short term, increasing international recruitment.
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23. Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to visit King George Hospital, Ilford, to discuss the future of the National Health Service in Redbridge and Waltham Forest. 
Mr. Denham: Since 1997, the number of doctors in the National Health Service has increased by around 6,700, and there are now 97,400 doctors working in the NHS. We are committed to further significant increases as part of the NHS Plan--by 2004 we expect there to be 7,500 more consultants and a minimum of 2,000 more general practitioners.
Yvette Cooper: We are extending the Carer's Special Grant and the Quality Protects Programme from three years to five and have increased funding to improve palliative care services for children--including respite breaks. We are also going to provide, through the Lottery New Opportunities Fund, access to funding for palliative care for children and adults.
Mr. Denham: Almost £2.3 billion has been allocated to health authorities from the Modernisation Fund. These funds have laid the foundation for the Government's modernisation agenda for the National Health Service. The Modernisation Fund will cease to exist in 2001-02. It has been superseded by the funding secured as part of SR2000 and the publication of the NHS Plan.
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