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Departmental Staff

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many employees of (a) his Department and (b) agencies sponsored by his Department work in (i) London, (ii) areas benefiting from EU Objective 1 status, (iii) areas with Objective 2 status and (iv) other areas. [16106]

Ms Blears [holding answer 19 November 2001]: Answers to (i) and (iv) for the Department and its agencies are shown in the table.

(a) Department of Health(14)1,9831,6523,635
(b) Medical Devices Agency1298137
(b) Medical Controls Agency43223455
(b) NHS Estates20303323
(b) NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency0292292
(b) NHS Pension Agency0445445

(14) Excluding agencies


Departmental statistical return to Cabinet Office 1 April 2001

Answers for (ii) and (iii) cannot be provided. The Department of Health, like other Departments, collects data by Government Official Regions. These are not in the same detailed level as areas for EU Objective 1 and Objective 2.

Food Poisoning (Deaths)

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the annual number of deaths in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) the European Union and (c) the United States of America per 100,000 people from food poisoning in the last 12 months. [16746]

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Ms Blears: The table sets out the annual number of reported deaths from food poisoning per 100,000 people in the year 2000 for the United Kingdom and for the United States. The United Kingdom figure is based on the annual corrected notifications of deaths attributed to food poisoning organisms reported to the Office for National Statistics in England and Wales and the General Register Offices for Scotland and for Northern Ireland.

The United States figure is based on deaths reported to the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) within the United States of America.

Figures for the European Union are not available in the form requested as the data gathering process varies between member states.

Annual number of reported deaths from food poisoning in 2000

CountryDeaths per 100,000 people
United Kingdom0.05
United States0.18
European UnionNot available


The UK and USA figures are not directly comparable because of differences in the surveillance systems.

The figures for both the UK and US underestimate deaths associated with food poisoning. A larger number of deaths are categorised as infectious intestinal disease (IID) and a proportion of these will result from food poisoning. The UK figure for deaths for IID was 0.99 per 100,000 persons in 2000. Comparable figures for IID in the US are not available.


England and Wales: Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Scotland: General Register Office Scotland (GROS)

Northern Ireland: General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI)

US: Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet)

NHS Dentistry

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the average level of remuneration for NHS dentists. [18478]

Ms Blears: Salaried national health service dentists are paid according to set salary scales. Information on individual salaries is not available.

Dentists providing general dental services (GDS) are remunerated on the basis of fees set out in the statement of dental remuneration. Under their terms of service, GDS dentists are not required to work a set number of hours and information is not collected on the average number of hours they work in the GDS.

However, a survey carried out by the Office of Manpower Economics in March 2000 provides some limited data on this area. The survey reported:

Average net income for all dentists wholly committed to the GDS in the latest 12 months would be about £65,000 after allowing for an average of £2,600 for other payments to dentists, an average expenses ratio for all

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dental work of 54.1 per cent., subsequent fee increases and the introduction of the dentists' commitment payments scheme.

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the number of NHS dentists due to retire over the next 10 years. [19945]

Ms Blears [holding answer 3 December 2001]: A review of the dental workforce is under way and due to report to Ministers in spring 2002.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on the availability of NHS dentistry in Fareham; [22378]

Ms Blears [holding answer 11 December 2001]: One practice in Fareham is currently taking national health service patients. The others have closed their NHS lists temporarily but will be opening them again in the new year. NHS Direct is working closely with the dental access centre in Fareham to ensure patients are able to access NHS treatment.

The number of dental practices in the Fareham constituency, for the years requested, is not available centrally.

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many NHS dentists are in practice in the town of Workington; and if he will make a statement. [23102]

Ms Blears: There are currently 12 dentists, in four practices, in Workington providing full national health service services.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many formal notices his Department has received in the last year from the Parliamentary Ombudsman expressing an intention to carry out an investigation; and in respect of each notice how long it took to respond. [18768]

Ms Blears [holding answer 27 November 2001]: Information on the outcome of statutory investigations which were concluded during 2000–01 is set out in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's annual report for 2000–01, copies of which are available in the Library, or on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at Between 1 April and 31 October, the Department has received two new statutory statement of complaint from the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Replies were sent in 13 and 15 working days.

Salt Consumption

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the Government's policy with regard to the health (a) risks and (b) benefits of salt consumption. [18860]

Ms Blears: Salt is the main source of sodium in the diet. Scientific evidence suggests that sodium is one of the important determinants of blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. National surveys

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show that the average intake of salt in the United Kingdom is more than twice the amount that is needed on health grounds. 75 per cent. of salt in the diet is obtained from processed foods.

Our policy is to seek reductions in the salt content of processed foods where it is present beyond technical, safety and palatability needs. Our commitment to working with industry to reduce the salt content of the diet was outlined in "Our Healthier Nation" (1999) and the "NHS Plan" (2000). The Department of Health, jointly with the Food Standards Agency, is in discussions with industry about reducing the salt content of these foods.


Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he plans to (a) alter and (b) review the list of exempted conditions for prescription charges. [18891]

Ms Blears: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) on 6 November 2001, Official Report, column 228W.

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will request the Prescription Pricing Authority to enable pharmacists to be informed of the specific reasons for transferring individual prescription items from exempt to chargeable groups without requiring them to travel to health authority premises to obtain the information. [19809]

Ms Blears: The monthly payment statement which the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA) sends to community pharmacies provides summary information on the number of prescriptions transferred from exempt to chargeable (and vice versa) and the reason in broad groups. It is not practicable for the PPA to provide routinely details of individual prescriptions switched. Community pharmacists can, however, ring the PPA's helpline to discuss forms that have been switched. In many cases this resolves the problem without any need for the pharmacist to inspect the forms.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reason the fee paid for dispensing NHS prescriptions has been changed; and what assessment he has made of the impact of the change upon the provision of community pharmacy services. [20282]

Ms Blears: The fee paid to pharmacies in England and Wales for dispensing national health service prescriptions has been changed as a consequence of the recent decision to set the Global Sum for 2001–02 at £806.6 million (an increase of 3.7 per cent. over the previous year). The Global Sum is the amount to be paid to pharmacies overall for the NHS pharmaceutical services they provide each year. The dispensing fee is one of a number of fees and allowances by which the Global Sum is distributed between pharmacies. Such fees are reviewed each time the annual Global Sum is set. Our assessment of the effect of the settlement for this year is that it appropriately remunerates community pharmacies for the service they provide.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the most recent review of the prescription system that he has carried out. [20860]

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Ms Blears: "Pharmacy in the Future—Implementing the NHS Plan", published in September 2000, set out our proposals for changes to the prescription system. These include:

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what is the (a) projected percentage volume change in prescriptions to be issued in 2001–02 and (b) the percentage change in the fee per prescription payable to pharmacy contractors in 2001–02 after allowing for clawback of payments related to 2000–01 activity; and if he will make a statement; [21081]

Ms Blears: We forecast that the number of national health service prescription items dispensed by community pharmacies in England and Wales in 2001–02 will be 6 per cent. higher than in 2000–01.

The fees paid to pharmacy contractors vary according to the item prescribed. However, the majority of prescriptions attract a basic dispensing fee. From July 1999 to October 2001 that fee was 97.5p. From November 2001 to March 2002 it will be 87.4p. We therefore forecast that the average value of the basic dispensing fees paid to pharmacy contractors for prescriptions dispensed in 2001–02 will be 93.2p, a reduction of 4.4 per cent. compared with 2000–01.

The basic dispensing fee is one of a number of fees and allowances by which the global sum for community pharmacies is distributed between pharmacy contractors. The global sum is the amount to be paid to contractors overall in the year in question. The global sum for 2001–02 for England and Wales is £806.6 million, an increase of 3.7 per cent. over 2000–01.

If remuneration is expressed as the global sum divided by the number of prescription items dispensed, then the remuneration per prescription in 2001–02 is forecast to be 135.4p, a reduction of 2.2 per cent. compared with 2000–01.

Actual payments will be different because there was an overpayment of £8.1 million in respect of 2000–01, which is to be recovered by reducing this year's payments. Taking that overpayment and recovery into account the actual payment per prescription item for 2001–02 is forecast to be 134.1p, a reduction of 4 per cent. compared with the actual payment per prescription in 2000–01.

While we take information and arguments about pharmacy contractors' costs into account when setting remuneration, we have made no assessment of the cost to a pharmacy contractor of supplying each individual prescription.

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