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Care Homes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his discussions with care providers regarding the proposals contained in "Fit for the Future?". [1358]

Jacqui Smith: The "Fit for the Future?" consultation exercise finished on 21 January 2000 and the finalised National Minimum Standards for Care Homes for Older People were published on 2 March this year. These standards were extensively consulted on and my hon. Friend the Minister of State met with providers and their representatives on several occasions to discuss the proposals, in addition to the meetings and correspondence dealt with by officials.

In setting these standards we listened to the concerns of providers and produced a sensible set of standards that give providers a reasonable time to adapt, and achieved the support of national organisations representing consumers and providers. We made a number of specific changes to the proposed standards in response to the concerns raised in the comments we received. I am confident that these decisions will ensure that any improvements in the quality of care homes necessary will be achieved smoothly, and that stability in the care homes sector and sufficient capacity is maintained while changes are made.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the number of care homes that have closed over the last year, by health authority area, and estimate the reduction in care places accordingly. [1357]

Jacqui Smith: Around 1,500 residential care homes for adults and 360 private nursing homes, hospitals and clinics in England closed during the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000. However, it should be noted that during the same period, there were around 1,900 new registrations of residential care homes and 350 of nursing care homes. Information is not available centrally on the number of care places associated with closures or new registrations. Details of closures or new registrations by local and health authority area are available in the report entitled 'Activity, workload and resources of local authority, health authority and joint inspection units: summary results of a survey in England 1999–2000' which was published on the internet at

Medical Careers (Women)

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to review the career structures of women in medicine. [1782]

Mr. Hutton: We value highly the contribution women make to medicine, and are already committed to providing the necessary support to assist them in combining work with home life. The Improved Working Lives Standard sets a model of supportive and flexible employment practice. National Health Service organisations will be

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required to achieve accreditation against the Standard by April 2003, demonstrating that they are improving the working lives of staff.

Hospital Hygiene

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures the Government are taking to (a) improve hospital hygiene and (b) reduce hospital-acquired infection. [1788]

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in improving hygiene in hospitals; and how many hospitals have been visited by the Commission for Health Improvement in 2001. [2018]

Ms Blears: The NHS Plan set out how we intended to improve standards of cleanliness and hygiene in National Health Service hospitals. A clean hospitals programme was launched in 2000, when £31.9 million was allocated directly to NHS trusts to begin a series of sustainable improvements to hospital cleanliness and the broader patient environment. Patient environment action teams (PEAT) were established to assess NHS trusts against 19 elements which define the patient environment. These elements include entrances and reception areas, visitors' and ward toilets, and cleanliness and decoration throughout the hospital. PEAT teams made two assessment visits. The first was to "spot check" the quality of the patient environment and to assess what needed to be done to raise standards; the second was to evaluate the improvements made and to determine whether the hospital had been successful in bringing standards to a higher level.

The NHS has made substantial progress since the assessments were completed, and major improvements in levels of cleanliness have been made in a relatively short space of time. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the results of the clean hospitals programme in a press release on 10 April 2001. The official report has now been published, showing that the percentage of hospitals now showing a good or acceptable standard of cleanliness is over 93 per cent. The tangible improvements that the NHS has achieved in the short-term are the basis for sustainable year-on-year improvements in the future. We will continue to support NHS trusts in raising standards further. A further allocation of £30 million has been provided to allow NHS trusts to build upon the positive outcomes achieved to date, and ensure a clean hospital environment in the future.

The NHS Plan states that the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) will monitor and report on standards of cleanliness in hospitals. CHI and NHS Estates are currently discussing how best to monitor progress and ensure that hospitals continue to maintain acceptable standards of cleanliness.

Trust chief executives are responsible for ensuring that there are high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals. From April 2001, all NHS trusts are required to comply with the new National Standards of Cleanliness for the NHS. These new standards form part of the Performance Assessment Framework and will ensure that higher standards are achieved and maintained in the future.

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It is a core requirement for NHS organisations to have effective systems in place to prevent and control hospital acquired infection (HAI). Evidence-based multi- professional guidelines for the prevention of HAI, commissioned by the Department, were published in January 2001. Additionally, all hospitals have been required to take part in national surveillance of HAI from April 2001 and data will be published from April 2002.

The Commission for Health Improvement has visited 34 hospitals between 1 January and 29 June 2001.

PFI Schemes (NHS)

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which NHS Private Finance Initiative schemes have been selected to pilot the management of NHS ancillary staff from the private sector. [2213]

Mr. Hutton: Pilot schemes, whereby ancillary services staff could retain their National Health Service employment terms but be managed by the private sector, are being conducted at three private finance initiative projects currently in procurement. These are at Stoke Mandeville Hospital NHS Trust, South West London Community NHS Trust (Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton) and Havering Hospitals NHS Trust.


Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the development of suicidal tendencies in patients taking Prozac; if he will instruct the Medicines Control Agency and the Committee on Safety of Medicines to review this matter; and if he will make a statement. [1853]

Jacqui Smith: The Department has not commissioned any recent research into the area of suicidal tendencies with Prozac.

As with all medicines the safety of Prozac is continually monitored by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and the independent expert advisory body, the

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Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM). In June 2001, the CSM considered the available data, including recent research on the issue, and concluded that study data do not support an association between fluoxetine and suicidal behaviour. However, due to the anecdotal reports of suicidal behaviour associated with fluoxetine, the CSM recommended that the issue should be kept under review and doctors and patients should be warned to be vigilant for suicidal thoughts and behaviour in the early stages of treatment. Patient information for Prozac, and that of other medicines in this class has been amended to include wording to this effect.

This issue is being closely monitored by the MCA and will be further reviewed by the CSM in July 2001.

Elective Procedures

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many elective procedures have been cancelled by each hospital trust in the south-east region since 1 January 2000. [1653]

Ms Blears: The Department does not collect information in the format requested. The Department collects information on the number of elective operations cancelled at the last minute for non-medical reasons, and breaches of the standard to admit patients within one month following such cancellations. Figures are collected on a quarterly basis at health authority level and routinely placed in the Library. The latest figures cover the five quarters up to Quarter 4 (January to March 2001) of the 2000–01 financial year.

Children's Hospices

Dr. Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the children's hospices in England indicating for each the (a) level of Government money provided for running costs and (b) proportion of each hospice's total annual running costs the Government grant represents. [1842]

Yvette Cooper: The information requested is not collected centrally.