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NHS Estate

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list all NHS estate disposals undertaken in (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02, specifying the additions to public funds achieved. [15761]

Mr. Hutton: A schedule provides details of the disposals achieved by National Health Service Estates on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in 2000–01 and the total proceeds generated from them in that year has been placed in the Library.

Details of the individual properties sold by NHS trusts are not collected centrally. In 2000–01 NHS trusts received income from the sale of fixed assets of £378 million. While this sum covers all fixed assets, the majority was from the disposal of land and buildings. This information is not yet available for 2001–02.

Cloned Embryos

Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the recent high court decision on the regulation of the creation or use of cloned human embryos. [18018]

Yvette Cooper: In its judgment given on 15 November 2001 in the judicial review brought by the Pro-Life Alliance, the High Court declared that embryos created other than by fertilisation were not regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The Government were granted leave to appeal.

On 18 January 2002 the Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the original judgment. This means that the creation and use of embryos created by cell nuclear replacement (so called 'cloned embryos') is governed by the 1990 Act and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The Pro-Life Alliance was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords and costs were awarded to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Waiting Lists

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his oral statement of 6 December 2001 on waiting lists, if individuals in Worcestershire who have removed themselves from NHS waiting lists and paid to have major heart surgery performed will be able to seek reimbursement for their local health authority or elsewhere; and if he will make a statement. [22259]

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Yvette Cooper: On 6 December 2001, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a patient choice package. From July 2002, if a patient with coronary heart disease has been on an in-patient waiting list for over six months, they will be able to seek swifter treatment in either the private sector, in another European Union country or in a different national health service hospital.

This patient choice package is not, however, retrospective and patients who have previously chosen to elect for private treatment, cannot be reimbursed by the NHS under any circumstances.

The decision to treat NHS patients in private facilities will be made locally. Those local decisions should be made on the basis of proper involvement in the planning process. Services bought from the private sector will be paid for by the NHS body commissioning the work (usually the primary care group/primary care trust) and the patient will receive free NHS service in the private sector organisation.

Any decision to use private sector providers will be made on the basis of value for money, clinical need and all appropriate clinical standards must be maintained.

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of patients that have hospital appointments postponed as a result of being away from home when contacted by hospitals. [31372]

Mr. Hutton: Data are not collected centrally on the numbers of patients whose operations have been postponed as a result of being away from home when contacted by hospitals.

Hospital Beds (Birmingham)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) general and (b) acute beds are (i) provided at the Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak hospitals in Birmingham and (ii) proposed for the replacement hospital; how many intermediate care beds (A) are provided by the NHS in Birmingham and (B) will be provided in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the definition of general, acute and intermediate care beds. [23280]

Yvette Cooper: The average daily number of available general and acute beds at University Hospital Birmingham national health service trust, for 2000–01 is 1,000 beds 1 . According to the University Hospital Birmingham national health service trust business plan for the new hospital current proposals are based on an assumption of 1,185 general and acute beds for 2008.

For the first time the Department has been collating data for availability of intermediate care beds. Central figures are not currently available, but local data suggest that there are 220 intermediate care beds in Birmingham. This includes those provided in non-NHS organisations. The National Beds Inquiry model suggests that Birmingham needs at least a further 100 intermediate care beds, for when the new private finance initiative hospital is completed. Birmingham health authority is planning phased development of this.

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General and acute includes all in-patient beds open overnight except for maternity, mental illness and learning disability beds. General and acute include intermediate care beds provided by national health service trusts and primary care trusts.

Intermediate care encompasses a wide range of service models and can be provided in a range of settings. The beds in this category reflect the residential rehabilitation service model and may be either 'step down' that is following a stay in acute hospital, or 'step up' that is referral by a general practitioner, social services or a rapid response team in cases which would otherwise necessitate acute admission or admission to longer-term residential care.

Efficiency Task Force

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the NHS Efficiency Task Force last met. [24574]

Mr. Hutton: The Efficiency Task Force last met on 28 June 1999.

We now take a wider view of performance, that also includes the delivery of quality and access targets. The continued development of our approach to performance is now informed by the Performance Working Group. The aim of the Performance Working Group is to provide practical advice on the design and implementation of a system and approach to performance management. It has members from the national health service, academics, and patient's organisations. It met four times in 2001, and last met on 24 January 2002.

We have introduced a range of measures to improve performance in the NHS. This includes the publication of comparative information—as part of the performance indicators; investment—including 7,500 more consultants and 20,000 more nurses by 2004; setting national standards—through the national service frameworks; stronger regulation and inspection—where the Commission for Health Improvement plays a key role; and spreading best practice—for example, by the Modernisation Agency.

Health Trusts (Private Medical Insurance)

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate for each English health trust (a) the total expenditure by the trust on private medical insurance for trust employees and (b) the number of employees provided with private medical insurance in each of the years 1997–98 to 2001–02; and if he will make a statement. [24038]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 18 December 2001]: Information about the provision of private medical insurance for national health service trust employees is not collected centrally.


Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with the Medical Control Agency about greater controls on the use of Roaccutane and better information on the packaging of this drug. [25364]

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Ms Blears: Roaccutane (isotretinoin) is licensed only for the treatment of very severe and disfiguring forms of acne. Roaccutane is a prescription only medicine and the terms of the marketing authorisation specify that it must be prescribed by, or under the supervision of, a consultant dermatologist. In addition, the supply of Roaccutane is restricted to hospitals or specified retail pharmacies. It is rare for the licensing authority to restrict prescription and supply in this way.

The safety of all medicines on the United Kingdom market is continuously monitored by the Medicines Control Agency. The product information includes the summary of product characteristics for prescribers and the patient information leaflet included in each pack of the medicine. These are also kept under continuous review to make sure that they provide the most up to date and relevant information to healthcare professionals and the public regarding the safe use of the medicine.

The product information for Roaccutane was last updated in June 2001 with regard to warnings and possible side effects. One of the key previous amendments to the product information was the strengthening of the warning relating to depression and other psychiatric reactions including suicide, which was approved in March 1998.

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