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Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the performance against target in replying to letters from members of the public to his Department for each of the last 12 months. 
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Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the regulatory regime for (a) private sector hospitals, (b) private sector general practitioners and (c) private sector consultants. 
Jacqui Smith: Independent hospitals are currently regulated by health authorities under the Registered Homes Act 1984. Private general practitioners are not currently regulated, although those who work in the national health service as well as the independent sector will be subject to inspection by the Commission for Health Improvement.
Consultant surgeons who are in charge of their own independent clinics are regulated by health authorities, but those who are granted practising privileges in independent hospitals but have no managerial role there, are not.
On 1 April the national care standards commission will take over from health authorities the regulation of independent hospitals and clinics under the Care Standards Act 2000. From that date, general practitioners who work exclusively in the private sector will be brought under regulation by the national care standards commission for the first time. Private consultants with practising privileges in independent hospitals will, as before, not be required to register personally with the commission. However, the registered providers will be held responsible for the quality of treatment those consultants provide.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to introduce national (a) standards and (b) assessments for NHS staff who use electronic medical equipment in the NHS; 
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(3) what plans he has to introduce training for NHS staff in the use of electronic medical equipment in the NHS; and if he will make a statement. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 25 January 2002]: National health service clinicians learn to operate an appropriate range of electronic medical equipment as part of their basic professional education. The Department does not set the curricula for pre-registration and undergraduate health professional education. This is a matter for the professional regulatory bodies.
Developing and maintaining the standards and skills of NHS staff who use electronic medical equipment is the responsibility of individual local NHS employers working in partnership with regulatory and professional bodies. However, as part of Medical Devices Agency's (MDA's) guidance and leverage programme, the MDA provide information routinely to health care professionals which assists in the training and safe use of electronic medical equipment and devices. This information is in the form of: device safety alerts, covering specific device related problems; technical notes; device bulletins; posters; and other written communications. Device bulletins in particular cover in more detail general device issues and have included training and management guidance.
The MDA has issued advice on "Medical Devices and Equipment Management for Hospitals and Community- based Organisations" (DB 9801 January 1998). The MDA have also co-operated with professional bodies and training organisations in developing targeted training for health care workers using electronic medical devices and equipment.
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact on waiting lists of the implementation of the advice on prion transmission by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee. 
Yvette Cooper: The move to single use instruments for tonsil and adenoid surgery in January 2001 was part of the Department's strategy to reduce the theoretical risk of transmitting variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) through surgical instruments. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) advised that single use instruments be considered for tonsil and adenoid surgery as part of this strategy "provided patient safety would not be compromised".
An initial shortage of single-use instruments led to the number of patients waiting for tonsil and adenoid surgery rising between January and June 2001, however the waiting list has fallen each month since June 2001. The number of patients waiting over 18 months for tonsil and adenoid surgery peaked in July 2001 at 206, but this figure had reduced to eight by November 2001.
Following the increase in provision of single use instruments in June 2001 the Medical Devices Agency Adverse Incident Centre received reports of adverse events with their use in tonsil and adenoid surgery. This included an increase in primary and secondary bleeding that required re-hospitalisation, return to theatre and blood transfusion. In the interests of patient safety and taking account of the improvement in central sterile services in
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hospitals to decontaminate instruments, it was decided to advise surgeons to use reusable instruments. As a result of this action on 14 December 2001, we expect all tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy patients to be treated within the 18 month maximum in-patient waiting time guarantee.
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the retirement ages that apply to the employees of his Department and its agencies, including how many and which categories of employees are affected by each; and if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on flexible retirement. 
Ms Blears: Regardless of grade or job title the normal age of retirement for all staff in the Department and its agencies is 60. Some staff who transferred into the Department from the national health service retained the right to retire on NHS terms at the age of 65. The Department is currently involved in taking forward a Cabinet Office led initiative called "Winning The Generation Game" looking at flexible retirement options.
I am further advised by the trust that in cases where the clinical need is judged the greatest, the waiting time will be far shorter. The trust expects that all patients waiting for non-urgent prostate operations will be treated within 15 months, and urgent cases of prostate cancer patients will be treated within two weeks of diagnosis.
|Residential care homes|
|Northern and Yorkshire||2,990||3,040||2,950|
|Nursing care homes(2)|
|Northern and Yorkshire||830||8,010||780|
(2) Private nursing homes, hospitals and clinics
Department of Health's annual return
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|Residential care beds|
|Northern and Yorkshire||45,570||45,950||45,340|
|Nursing care beds|
|Northern and Yorkshire||29,620||27,620||26,950|
Department of Health's annual return
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