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Special Urgency Provisions

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how often the Department has applied the special urgency provisions in paragraph 22 of Circular 18/84 (Development by Government Departments) to a development by the department; and if he will make a statement. [38712]

Ms Blears: The Department has no records of having made use of these provisions.

These provisions do not apply to national health service bodies.

Foreign Nationals

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to restrict free NHS treatment to foreign nationals visiting the UK; [38430]

Mr. Hutton: Conditions of entry to the United Kingdom are a matter for the Home Office. Once a person has arrived in the United Kingdom their basis of entitlement to national health service treatment will be determined by the general practitioner or hospital providing treatment.

Treatment in NHS hospitals is subject to the provisions of the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 1989, as amended [in 1991 (SI No: 438), 1994 (SI No:1535), 2000 (SI No: 602), 2000 (SI No: 909)]. These regulations place a duty on hospitals and other NHS bodies to establish the residence qualification of all patients.

The Department of Health has been reviewing the way in which these regulations are applied by NHS trusts and revised guidance is also being drafted. In addition posters and leaflets, drawing attention to the charging regulations, have been issued to all hospitals and GP surgeries and are being sent to British embassies abroad.


Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many members of his staff in each of the past two years have been granted a day's paid leave to work as a volunteer; and if he will make a statement. [39737]

Ms Blears: The Department has a special leave policy that allows for paid leave for voluntary work.

As arrangements for paid leave are made locally between staff and their managers we do not centrally record information on the numbers of staff that undertake paid leave to work as a volunteer.

Staff are encouraged to consider training and learning opportunities, including voluntary work, as part of their career development in the Department.

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Fair Trade

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether fair trade products are sold in his Department. [39837]

Ms Blears: The Department's catering contractor has a company policy to buy fair trade goods from its suppliers and has a commitment to support fair trade.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what level of expenditure will be required to implement the report on communications as part of the shifting the balance of power within the NHS. [39953]

Ms Blears: Communication was one of 12 specific topics covered by "Shifting the Balance of Power: the Next Steps", published in January, including others such as public health, professional leadership and research and development. All of these issues are being followed up in different ways.

The communications guidance sets out a list of responsibilities including greater patient and public involvement and improved communications with staff. No additional resources have been earmarked to implement the guidance.

Many existing communications staff will be transferring to the new organisations and the national health service is expected to enhance its communications capabilities as part of good management—not at the expense of other aspects of patient care.

Primary Health Care Trusts

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average size is of the population of a primary health care trust; and what guidelines his Department has on the ideal size of a trust. [40066]

Mr. Hutton: There is no upper or lower size limit for primary care trusts (PCTs). The size and the configuration of PCTs remains a local decision, taken in the light of local circumstances. PCT size will depend on the services it wishes to provide for its population, the views of local stakeholders, the impact on other local organisations—including the boundary relationships with local authority partners, and whether the PCT is fit for purpose.

The average population size of all PCTs from April 2002 will be around 170,000.

Design Champion

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the role is of the Design Champion in his Department. [40352]

Ms Blears: The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath), the Department's ministerial design champion is spearheading the implementation of the Department's design programme "Achieving Excellence in Healthcare Design". He will strive to maximise the benefits of our investment in the hospital building programme and ensure cross- Government working.

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He will raise the profile of design excellence by addressing the service and industry. For example, he will be delivering the keynote speech at the Primary Healthcare Design conference in May this year.

He will also work closely with the national health service and architectural bodies, personally mentoring two projects, being Walsall Design Exemplar and South Manchester Primary Care Trust development.

Rail Journeys (Staff)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy that rail journeys undertaken by staff in his Department should ordinarily be on standard class tickets. [40447]

Ms Blears: Section 8 of the Civil Service Management Code requires Departments and agencies to ensure that staff use the most efficient and economic means of travel in the circumstances, taking into account any management benefit or the needs of staff with disabilities. In line with that, the Department's policy is that all staff should consider travelling standard class unless they have a special need related to their work.

Waiting Times (Greater London)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people are waiting for (a) knee replacement, (b) cataract and (c) hernia operations in the Greater London area. [40514]

Mr. Hutton: The information requested is not held centrally. Data are collected only at consultant specialty level.

Trust Merger (Lancashire)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on the printing of stationery for a single Trust Board at Chorley and South Ribble and Preston hospitals before the consultation period on the proposed merger has been completed; [40684]

Ms Blears: An announcement on the proposed merger will be made in due course.

NHS Charges

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is towards social services departments being charged by the NHS for people who remain in hospital after being medically discharged. [42599]

Jacqui Smith: The current policy is that councils with social services responsibilities, are not charged by the national health service for people who remain in hospital after being medically discharged.

Digital Hearing Aids

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with suppliers of

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digital hearing aids to provide a cost effective expansion of the delivery of the technology to the deaf and hard of hearing. [36963]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 25 February 2002]: Officials in the National Health Service Purchasing and Supply Agency have held discussions with a majority of suppliers of digital hearing aids, as part of a supplier evaluation exercise. The discussions centred around supply chain issues, production facilities, quality control, capacity and flexibility. No conclusions have yet been reached.

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf is managing the Modernising Hearing Aid Services project on behalf of the Department. The other bodies involved in this project are the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency, and the Medical Research Council/Institute of Hearing Research.

Special Advisers

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health on how many occasions since 1 May 1997 (a) departmental and (b) non-departmental special advisers have travelled abroad in an official capacity; and if he will list the total cost, including (i) travel, (ii) accommodation and (iii) subsistence allowance, for each occasion. [37979]

Ms Blears [holding answer 27 February 2002]: Special advisers in the Department did not travel abroad in an official capacity in the period 1 April 2000 and 31 March 2001. Information relating to the period from May 1997 was given in the reply to the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) on 5 July 1999, Official Report, column 393W. All travel by special advisers is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code, and the Civil Service Management Code.

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