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NHS Direct

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what discussions he has had with GP bodies about the safety of advice offered by NHS Direct;[42352]

Ms Blears [holding answer 11 March 2002]: During the implementation of NHS Direct, the Department had regular meetings with general practitioners bodies, including the General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association and the National Association of GP Co-operatives, to discuss ways in which NHS Direct and GPs could work collaboratively to improve patient care. Bodies representing GPs are also represented on the NHS Clinical Assessment System Clinical Reference Group, a national group that ensures the system used by NHS Direct is safe and reflects evidence-based best practice.

Independent evaluation by the National Audit Office and Sheffield University found evidence that NHS Direct has a good safety record, is as safe as other entry points into the NHS, and that serious adverse clinical outcomes associated with the service are likely to be rare.


Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many patients of (a) Brighton Health Care NHS Trust and (b) Worthing and Southlands NHS Trust have received treatment for cancer of the (i) breast, (ii) uterus, (iii) cervix, (iv) bladder, (v) prostate, (vi) non Hodgkin's lymphoma, (vii) bowel, (viii) all leukaemias, (ix) ovary, (x) stomach, (xi) lung, (xii) pancreas, (xiii) oesophagus and (xiv) other cancers in each of the last five years; and how many patients are currently awaiting these operations; [42271]

Ms Blears [holding answer 11 March 2002]: Information on the number of patients awaiting referral to Brighton Health Care NHS Trust and the number awaiting operations is not collected centrally. The information collected centrally on cancer waiting times at Brighton Health Care NHS Trust and Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust has been placed in the Library.

Patient Complaints

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment has been made about the cost to (a) individual NHS trusts and (b) his Department of requiring trusts to compile data about the ethnicity of patients making complaints; and how many staff are involved; [42210]

3 Apr 2002 : Column 1050W

Ms Blears [holding answer 11 March 2002]: The cost of the implementation of ethnic category data has only been estimated in terms of staff-days. It is estimated that up to two staff-days will be needed in each health authority and trust to extract the information from their existing systems in order to complete the two returns KO41A and B. In addition, it is expected that each Primary Care Trust will require up to two staff-days in total to complete the new KO41C central return.

The collection of ethnic category data on written complaints will be valuable in gauging fair and equal access to health care across ethnic groups. Where monitoring shows unequal outcomes between different minority ethnic groups, public authorities will be required to take action to promote greater equality and to prevent discrimination whether direct or indirect. In the longer term, data collected on written complaints will be used to inform service improvements as well as give practice managers and the service as a whole more qualitative information around access to health care services.

All trusts and health authorities have been asked to complete ethnic category details of complainants and staff complained against for the first time in the 2001–02 annual NHS Complaints Monitoring Collection.

The Department publishes the results of its annual complaints monitoring exercise every year in XHandling complaints: monitoring the NHS complaints procedures". The 2001–02 data, which will include ethnic data, should be published in late autumn 2002.

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Stolen Equipment

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 7 February 2002, Official Report, columns 1160–64W, on stolen equipment, what criminal proceedings have been undertaken for cases of theft against his Department, stating in each case (a) whether the proceedings (i) led to a criminal conviction and (ii) were unsuccessful, (b) the cost incurred by his Department in pursuing a conviction and (c) the value of items recovered; and if he will make a statement. [41508]

Ms Blears [holding answer 18 March 2002]: All losses are investigated by the Department and stolen equipment has been recovered on some occasions to the value of about #5,000. Losses over #500 are reported to the police. It has not been possible to bring criminal proceedings in any one case mainly due to a lack of evidence. We have progressively put in place a series of measures to combat our losses from both organised and opportunistic theft. We take seriously the theft and loss of our assets. We recognise the importance of safeguarding our equipment both inside and outside the office.

Special Advisers

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many special advisers were employed by him (a) between 1 May and 31 December 1997 and (b) in each year from 1998 to 2001 inclusive; and what the total amount spent on special advisers by the Department was in each of those years. [41251]

Ms Blears: The information requested is shown in the tables.

YearNumbersCost (#)
1997–982see note1

YearNumbersCost (#)
1998–992see note1
1999–20002see note1
2000–012see note1

1 Details of costs for Special Advisors within the individual departments are not given, in order to protect the privacy of the small number of individuals concerned.

Press Office

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff in his Department's press office have received (a) termination and (b) redundancy payments in each of the last four years. [41078]

Ms Blears: No staff in the Department of Health Press Office have received (a) termination and (b) redundancy payments in each of the last four years.

Press and Public Relations

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the annual budget for communications activities, including press, public relations, marketing and internal communications, was for his Department for each financial year from 1997–98 to 2001–02. [39916]

Ms Blears: Expenditure on Communications activities comes under two headings as shown in the table below:


YearRunning costsProgramme

1 The Department's Press and Publicity Division and NHS Communication Unit amalgamated on 1 April 1999.

2 The Department took on direct control for a number of public Health Campaigns with the closure of the Health Education Authority on 3 March 2000.

3 2001–02 figures are latest estimates.


Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will reply to the letter of 9 January from the hon. Member for Fareham, concerning Claire Bayliss.[45803]

Ms Blears: A reply was sent on 27 March.

Free Prescriptions

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of the number of under-25 year olds residing in England receiving free prescriptions in Wales since 1 April 2001; [41621]

Ms Blears [holding answer 12 March 2002]: Information about cross-border dispensing does not include information about the age of individual patients. The information available about cross-border dispensing is in the table.


Number of items1Net Ingredient Cost
Written in England and dispensed in Wales2
Quarter ended June 200050,618744,721
Quarter ended June 200156,644848,914
Written in Wales and dispensed in England3
Quarter ended June 200054,8851,508,928
Quarter ended June 200158,4711,753,489

1 Dispensed by community pharmacies and appliance contractors.

2 Source: Prescribing Services Unit of Health Solutions Wales, Bro Taf Health Authority.

3 Source: Prescription Pricing Authority.

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