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Mr. Hutton: The NHS Confederation is leading the negotiations with British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee, on behalf of United Kingdom Health Ministers. It is committed to putting proposals to UK Health Ministers as soon as practicable. I understand an encouraging start has been made but that further work remains.
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2001. There is no information available as to how many applications are currently being processed by health authorities.
Mr. Hutton: The Department's general practitioner recruitment, retention and vacancy survey 2000 for England and Wales reported 1,214 general practitioner vacancies outstanding at some time in the 12 month period between 1 April 1999 and 31 March 2000. These vacancies were reported by 96 per cent. out of the then 104 health authorities in England and Wales. Eight health authorities did not supply the necessary information.
For the 2001 survey 98 out of the then 100 health authorities provided information indicating that there were 2,464 general practitioner vacancies outstanding at some time in the 12 month period between 1 April 2000 and 31 March 2001.
Jacqui Smith: Commissioners and national health service trusts in the north-west are working together on options for the location of the cleft lip and palate centre for the region. This work will be completed by March and will be followed by three months public consultation on the options.
Ms Blears: A total of £150 million has been invested in accident and emergency departments through the accident and emergency modernisation programme. It is the biggest investment in A&E services since the beginning of the national health service. The first wave of investment was for £30 million in 1998, the second was for £85 million in May 1999 and the final wave of funding was made available to the NHS in January 2001.
Ms Blears: An estimated £1.1 billion will be spent on the general dental service and in excess of £50 million revenue will be invested in personal dental service pilot schemes in the current financial year. These levels of expenditure are anticipated to continue in the next financial year.
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Regions to ensure that local primary care trusts are included as statutory bodies with respect to the proposed changes to the local government planning regime. 
Mr. Hutton: The planning Green PaperPlanning: Delivering a Fundamental Changehas only recently been issued by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, and the Department of Health will make representations by the due date of 18 March.
Ms Blears: The Department has commissioned reviews of those trusts with a zero star status. This review is currently being evaluated by officials before submission to the Secretary of State for his consideration.
In the initial review the Royal Sussex county hospital failed to meet three performance targets, namely those of out-patient waiting lists, over 12 hour trolley waits and percentage of patients seen within two weeks of referral with suspected breast cancer.
Mr. Hutton: The NHS Plan sets out the progress this Government want to make over the coming years. The plan, which was announced in July 2000, addresses waiting times for outpatient and inpatient treatment.
By the end of 2005 the maximum in-patient waiting time will be cut from 18 months now to six months and the maximum out-patient waiting time will be cut from over six months now to three months. Urgent cases will continue to be treated much faster.
Our objective is to reduce the maximum wait for any stage of treatment to three months by the end of 2008. As a result of delivering these policies we expect the average time for an out-patient appointment to fall to five weeks and the average time that patients have been waiting for in-patient treatment to fall from three months to seven weeks.
This Government met their 1997 manifesto commitment to reduce the total number of patients on the in-patient waiting list by 100,000. We achieved this in March 2000 and have maintained it ever since. The NHS is expected to continue to reduce the waiting list in order to make achievement of the maximum waiting times more manageable.
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Mr. Hutton: The National Audit Office report "Inappropriate adjustments to national health service waiting lists" listed nine trusts where inappropriate adjustments had taken place. In two of these trusts, Salford and Stoke Mandeville, the investigations have reached the disciplinary stage. There have been no trust managers dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct in the other seven cases.
The Department accepts that some of the earlier cases covered in the report were not always handled properly and it accepts in full the recommendations set out the NAO report. In future, any manager found to have deliberately distorted waiting figures will face dismissal on grounds of gross misconduct. This will be supported by a new code of conduct for national health service managers. Anyone who breaches that code of conduct will not be re-employed as a manageranywhere in the national health service.
Yvette Cooper: We have completed our consultation on delivery of the two national health inequalities targets and we expect to publish an implementation plan this year. We are reviewing policy across Government impacting on health inequalities through our cross-cutting spending review and are taking action through a wide range of national health service activity.
Yvette Cooper: We have completed our consultation on delivery of the national health inequalities targets and we expect to publish an implementation plan this year. We are reviewing policy across Government impacting on health inequalities through our cross-cutting spending review and are taking action through a wide range of national health service activity.
Ms Blears: The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has to date issued 31 sets of technology appraisal guidance and four sets of clinical guidelines, with a further 44 appraisals and 31 clinical and service guidelines in its forward programme. The guidance published so far covers a wide range of disease areas including cancer, mental health, coronary heart disease, diabetes and long term conditions.
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