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Emergency Acute Services (Rural Areas)

22. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the requirements for emergency acute services in remote rural areas. [34723]

Ms Blears: Each health community is responsible for developing services that meet the needs of the community they serve, taking account of clinical standards and safety and the views of local people.

The NHS Plan sets out our vision for a health service designed around the patient, with a commitment to provide a comprehensive range of services for everyone, using the guiding principle of providing as much care as possible as close to home as possible.

Each Primary Care Trust needs to consider how best to plan and commission services to meet local needs, rather than imposing a single model of service from the centre.

Kent and Canterbury Hospital

23. Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the downgrading of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. [34724]

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Ms Blears: The proposals for the reconfiguration of acute hospital services in East Kent, which include the future role of Kent and Canterbury Hospital, are currently the subject of a public consultation. The consultation period runs until 28 February, therefore it would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt that exercise by commenting on the future of Kent and Canterbury at this time.

Consultants (Contracts)

25. Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to conclude negotiations on the national health service consultants' contracts. [34726]

Mr. Hutton: The Government's proposals for the new consultant contract were published in February 2001 and these, alongside the British Medical Association's own proposals, form the basis of continuing negotiations. We have discussed a range of issues and options in the negotiations and I believe we are making good progress.


26. Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on steps being taken to increase the number of NHS nurses working in Worcester. [34727]

Yvette Cooper: Initiatives to increase the number of national health service nurses now working in the Worcester area include the appointment of a recruitment adviser, the provision of additional nursery places, Improving Working Lives initiatives, local, regional and overseas recruitment initiatives and the introduction of comprehensive professional development opportunities for nursing staff.

27. Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the future supply of nurses. [34728]

Mr. Hutton: Figures released on 5 February show that we have met the NHS Plan target for 20,000 more nurses by 2004 well ahead of schedule.

The NHS Plan also commits us to 5,500 more nurses and midwives entering training each year by 2004. We are on course to achieve this and applications for nurse training are rising. Over the last two years the number of applicants for nursing and midwifery diploma courses has risen by 86 per cent.

Obesity (Young People)

28. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to reduce the levels of obesity in young people. [34729]

Yvette Cooper: We are tackling levels of obesity in young people by improving diet and physical activity. This includes investment from the New Opportunities Fund for a PE and Sports Programme, a National School Fruit Scheme and nutritional standards for school lunches. Local strategies on reducing overweight and obesity are also being developed as part of the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease.

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29. Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the number of acupuncturists practising in (a) the NHS and (b) the private sector. [34730]

Yvette Cooper: The Department does not record the number of people practising complementary medicine in the national health service. However organisations representing NHS professionals that use some acupuncture have over 3,000 members. A further 2,200 acupuncturists who practise mainly in the private sector belong to the British Acupuncture Council.

NHS Plan (Birmingham)

31. Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the implementation of the NHS Plan in Birmingham. [34732]

Yvette Cooper: The NHS Plan is being implemented by the Birmingham health economy in a coherent and strategic way. The strong history of partnership working across Birmingham has allowed the local modernisation review process to continue to modernise and develop services for local people.

Plans for the development of acute services in the south of the city are well under way, and the emerging primary care trusts will build on the work already undertaken to improve the health and well-being of the people of Birmingham.

Accident and Emergency Services

32. Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on statistical techniques for measuring waiting times in accident and emergency units. [34733]

Ms Blears: The Department requires the national health service to report quarterly on the numbers of patients who are admitted to hospital through accident and emergency and the length of time they waited following the decision to admit.

The waiting time for an emergency hospital admission is measured from the time when the decision is made to admit or when treatment in accident and emergency is completed, whichever is the latest, to the time when the patient is received into:

The NHS Plan set a new target for accident and emergency:

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In line with this, from August 2001, the Department has collected data on total time in accident and emergency from arrival to transfer, admission or discharge. Information suggests that the NHS is on track to meet the March 2002 milestone. Currently 77 per cent. of all accident and emergency attenders spend four hours or less in accident and emergency.

In the majority of NHS trusts, information on waiting times in accident and emergency are extracted from patient records on hospital computer systems. If IT systems are not yet in place, NHS trusts can use sampling methodology to provide the figures. Guidance on sampling is provided in "Patient's Charter monitoring guide".

35. Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he intends to visit the Royal National Hospital in Bath to discuss accident and emergency services. [34736]

Ms Blears: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has no plans to visit the Royal United Hospital Bath National Health Service Trust to discuss accident and emergency services.


33. Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on services for sufferers from endometriosis. [34734]

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Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) to the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) on 23 April 2001, Official Report, columns 179–80W.

Poverty (Health Effects)

34. Mr. Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact of poverty on health; and if he will make a statement. [34735]

Yvette Cooper: Poverty has a major impact on health. The independent Acheson inquiry into inequalities in health commissioned by the Government in 1997 concluded that many studies and analyses have demonstrated the association between poor health and increasing material disadvantage.

Health inequalities is a priority for the whole Government. Two national targets to reduce health inequalities were announced in February 2001. A public consultation on the delivery of the targets was held in autumn 2001. We are currently undertaking a cross-cutting spending review to establish priorities for action to deliver the targets.

NHS Funding (Surrey and Sussex)

37. Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about funding of the national health service in Surrey and Sussex. [34738]

Ms Blears: The 2002–03 allocations for Surrey and Sussex health authorities will be as follows:

Total allocation Total increase Real terms increase
Health authority(£000)(£000)(Percentage)(£000)(Percentage)
East Surrey324,71927,5829.3119,6866.65
East Sussex, Brighton and Hove666,72159,9139.8943,6747.21
West Surrey485,87742,1839.5730,3986.89
West Sussex618,82953,8479.5838,8246.91

This represents a substantial increase for all four health economies.

The 2002–03 allocations for English health authorities represent the biggest average rise for a decade.

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