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Primary Care Incentive Schemes

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list (a) present and (b) proposed incentive schemes in primary care together with their purposes. [156732]

Mr. Denham: There are a number of incentive schemes currently in place to encourage best practice in primary care including the prescribing incentives scheme and the sustained quality allowance scheme (details in Health Service Circular 1998/228 and HSC1999/107 respectively). Copies are available in the Library.

On 19 March my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced an additional £100 million of investment available to primary care groups and primary care trusts to draw up incentive schemes in association with their constituent practices. These schemes should focus upon delivering local services.

This new investment is intended to stimulate innovation. £50 million will be available recurrently to enable practices to invest up front in service improvement. The second tranche of the moneys (£50 million) will be available non recurrently to reward achievement of the targets agreed locally by practices with their PCG or PCT. It will be for the practice to determine how to use these moneys which may be personal reward to individuals or additional investment to further support service development and staff training. This investment equates to a figure of approximately £2 per head of population with an average practice receiving £10,000 additional investments.

Medical Records

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that patients will have an input into decisions over access to their medical records when electronic patient records are introduced. [156731]

Ms Stuart: A number of electronic record demonstrator projects are looking at this aspect of electronic patient record development. Any mechanisms put in place will need to reflect the requirements of Data Protection legislation and generally common law obligations of confidentiality.

Primary Care Trusts

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the benefits arising from the introduction of primary care trusts. [156733]

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Mr. Denham: Primary care trusts (PCTs) are local, relevant and accessible organisations to both the community they serve and the clinicians who provide the care. PCTs have a range of freedoms and flexibilities greater than any other health service body. They provide improved support to practices and clinicians, commission and deliver improved services through the integration of primary and community health care and shape services in response to the needs of their local populations. They bring decisions about services closer to patients and local communities, ensuring that they are taken by those who understand their patients' needs. PCTs are demonstrating an ability to balance local knowledge against capacity to manage the provision of services and the management resources to deliver. Owing to the flexibility PCTs have to form responsive local services, there exists a large variety of initiatives across the country.

One hundred and twenty-four new PCTs became operational on 1 April 2001 bringing the total number of PCTs to 164. In two years, the percentage of the population in England whose healthcare is being delivered by a PCT has risen from zero to approximately 48 per cent. The benefits of PCT status for services to patients, the public and for healthcare are being realised now that the first 17 PCTs have completed their first year of operation.

Hepatitis C

Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will pay compensation to patients with haemophilia and other blood disorders who have contracted hepatitis C through infected blood transfusions; and if he will make a statement. [156858]

Mr. Denham: We have reviewed the previous Government's decision not to offer financial assistance to haemophilia patients infected with hepatitis C through blood products. We concluded that an exception could not be made to the general rule that compensation or financial help is only given when the National Health Service, or individuals working in it, have been at fault.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what advice he received in respect of suspending the concentration of services within the Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust; and if he will publish that advice; [157093]

Ms Stuart: I have carefully considered all the representations made to me over the past few months about the future of acute services at the Surrey and Sussex Healthcare National Health Service Trust and have decided that it would be in the best interest of the local population that any further changes are suspended until the conclusions of the South East Surrey and North West Sussex Service review are known.

In the interim, the South East Regional Office of the NHS Executive will work closely with the trust to ensure that services continue to be provided safely.

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Foster Carers

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what account has been taken of representations from fostering organisations about the impact on the recruitment and retention of foster carers of the Inland Revenue's proposals for taxing payments. [157069]

Mr. Hutton: Meetings have taken place between officials of the Inland Revenue, the Department of Health, representatives from the Association of Directors of Social Services, the National Foster Care Association, British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, the Forum of Independent Fostering Agencies, plus other interested parties, such as accountants with relevant expertise in this area. The intention is to agree an appropriate and fair level of average allowable expenses to set against any income that a foster carer may receive from either a local authority or a fostering agency.

It has now been agreed that existing local arrangements will continue to apply until such time as a mutually acceptable agreement on average allowable expenses can be agreed. We hope this will be well in advance of 6 April 2002. We are committed to involving fostering organisations in this process.

Alcohol Misuse

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to publish a report on a long-term strategy to deal with alcohol abuse. [156910]

Ms Stuart: We remain committed to the publication of a cross Government strategy to tackle alcohol misuse, and we are working with key stakeholders across Government, the alcohol field and the alcohol industry to ensure that this commitment is delivered.

The NHS Plan, published in July 2000, said that the Department would be implementing the strategy by 2004. The Department expects to publish a consultation paper in due course.


School Closures

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list the occasions on which schools have (a) closed and (b) sent children home early due to (i) foot and mouth disease, (ii) teacher sickness, (iii) adverse weather conditions and (iv) teacher shortages, in the last year for which figures are available. [156918]

Ms Estelle Morris: This information is not collected centrally. Schools may decide to close or to send pupils home early for a number of reasons, especially where they judge the health and safety of pupils to be at risk. Neither schools nor local education authorities are required to report such decisions.

Independent Schools

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the percentage of children (a) of compulsory school age and (b) 16 and over who attended independent schools in each of the last 10 years. [157058]

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Ms Estelle Morris: The data requested are shown in the table.

Pupils in independent schools(12)

Percentage of pupils of compulsory school age(13) Percentage of pupils aged 16+(14)

(12) Excluding City Technology Colleges

(13) Calculated as a percentage of pupils of compulsory school age in all school types

(14) Calculated as a percentage of pupils aged 16 and over in all school types

Student Loans

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor) of 9 February 2001, Official Report, column 764W on student loans, if he will estimate the rate of interest required to increase the net present value of student loans in 1999-2000 by £455 million. [156662]

Mr. Wicks [holding answer 2 April 2001]: The net present value of the estimated £982 million income contingent loans issued in 1999-2000 to students domiciled in England and Wales is estimated to be £590 million. The nominal rate of interest required to increase this by £455 million is estimated to be around 10 per cent.

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