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Ministerial Private Offices

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 26 March 2002, Official Report, column 924W, on the running costs of his Ministers' private offices, for what reason those costs rose between 1997–98 and 2001–01. [50340]

Ms Blears: Costs of Ministers' private offices have risen since 1997–98 in part because an additional Minister was appointed in 1999–2000. The level of support provided to Ministers has also been improved over the period.


John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to promote wider use of conciliation in handling complaints against the NHS. [49941]

Ms Blears: Conciliation is a positive mechanism for resolving complaints at an early stage. The NHS complaints procedure evaluation report recommended that wider use of conciliation should be encouraged and we are currently considering how best to achieve this as part of our broader reforms to the NHS complaints procedure.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many complaints were registered against his Department and its predecessor Departments in (a) 1990 to 1996 and (b) 1997 to 2002; how many are current; and what proportion were (i) taken up and (ii) upheld by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in those periods. [51586]

Ms Blears [holding answer 22 April 2002]: The information relating to complaints registered against the Department can be provided only at disproportionate cost. Information on complaints made to the Parliamentary Ombudsman is contained in the Ombudsman's annual reports, copies of which are held in the Library, and from 1997–98 on the Ombudsman's website at

Hospital Waiting Times

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the latest figures are for the Mid Essex Hospital Trust area for the (a) number of people waiting for hospital treatment and (b) number of people waiting less than (i) 18, (ii) 15, (iii) 12 and (iv) six months for hospital treatment. [48802]

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Jacqui Smith: The information requested is shown in the table.

Patients waiting for elective admission, Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, February 2002. Ordinary and day case admissions combined

By month waiting
Total waiting9,646
Less than 6 months7,126
Less than 12 months9,360
Less than 15 months9,641
Less than 18 months9,646


Department of Health Monthly Monitoring

Pathology Services

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the estimated total NHS expenditure was on pathology services in 2000–01; how many pathology services there are in England; how many public health laboratory services there are; and what estimate he has made of the number of private sector pathology laboratories. [49041]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 16 April 2002]: Information on pathology expenditure is not collected centrally; funding for pathology is included in the general allocation to the National Health Service.

The Department does not hold a central register of pathology laboratories. However, we estimate that there are around 300 NHS Pathology services in England based in acute Trusts. These include up to 1700 separate laboratories providing diagnostic services for haematology, microbiology, biochemistry, histopathology/ cytopathology, immunology and genetics. We also estimate that there are approximately 250 pathology laboratories in the independent sector.

The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) comprises 46 laboratories in eight regional groups, the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) (incorporating seven reference laboratories and a scientific support services unit), and the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC), both at Colindale, North West London. In addition, there are five PHLS collaborating centres serving the London population, and two other special laboratories.

Smart Card Technology

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the use of smart card technology in his Department and in the areas for which it is responsible; and what discussions he has had with private companies about the use of smart card technology within his Department. [50483]

Ms Blears [holding answer 16 April 2002]: The NHS Plan published in July 2000 refers to the possible introduction of smart cards to meet two key business

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requirements, i.e., to enable patients and healthcare professionals to access medical records, and to store a limited amount of emergency medical data. A number of studies have been conducted within the Department which looked at different options, including smart cards, and biometrics, to meet these business requirements. Our current view is that there are many issues that need to be resolved before decisions can be made about implementing a large-scale scheme involving smart card technology. These include the question of security and confidentiality. There are also technical, legal, cultural, funding and other issues which need to be addressed. The government's approach, therefore, is to test these concepts in pilot projects before considering further a wider use of patient-held smart cards.

The Department is currently funding a programme of pilot projects over a three year period to introduce occupational health smart cards for hospital doctors, initially doctors in training, in England. The company running the projects is TSSI (Thorn Secure Science Ltd.). This is not a patient-held smart card scheme, but we hope to learn lessons about the technology and other issues from this pilot programme.

Ministers and officials at the Department have both formal and informal discussions with private companies on a range of issues, including the possible use of smart card technology in healthcare. The Department is also represented on the Office of the e-Envoy's Smart Card Policy Working Group which includes private companies and other interest groups in its membership.

NHS Finance

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the ring-fenced allocations and special purpose grants made by him in financial years (a) 2000–01, (b) 2001–02 and (c) 2002–03, together with the amount of each allocation; what arrangements are in place to ensure that allocations are spent for the purpose intended; whether unspent resources are clawed back; and if he will make a statement. [50065]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 16 April 2002]: Table 1 lists the ring-fenced allocations and grants which the Department made available to councils in 2000–01, 2001–02 and 2002–03. Audit arrangements are in place to check that allocations are used for the purpose intended. Unspent grant in excess of any end year flexibility allowed by the grant conditions is clawed back unless Ministers decide to waive recovery in accordance with the grant conditions. Unused supplementary credit approvals (SCAs) lapse unless they are surrendered by councils. SCAs cannot be clawed back by the Department.

Table 2 shows the ring-fenced allocation which is made to health authorities. There are local monitoring arrangements in place to ensure allocations are spent in full. Expenditure is separately identified within the annual accounts.

Table 1: Grant

AIDS Support Grant16,00016,50016,500
Drugs and Alcohol Specific Grant6,8008,850
Mental Health Grant129,500148,443154,443
Training Support Programme42,50047,50057,500
Children's Services Grant120,000291,750461,500
Secure Accommodation Grant6,2286,2286,228
Partnership Grant(21) 216,000
Prevention Grant(21) 30,000
Promoting Independence Grant(21) 296,000155,000
Carers' Grant50,00070,00085,000
Care Direct Grant5002,00010,000
Deferred Payments Scheme15,00030,000
Improving Information Management Grant3,00025,000
Young People's Substance Misuse Planning Grant4,5004,500
Building Care Capacity Grant100,000200,000
Teenage Pregnancy Local Implementation Grant16,000
Performance Fund50,000
Residential Allowance Grant93,000
Preserved Rights Grant614,000
Invest to Save Grant4,2541,330
Supplementary credit approvals: Mental Health15,60015,60015,600
Supplementary credit approvals: AIDS3,1003,1003,100

(21) The Partnership and Prevention Grants merged in 2001–02 to become the Promoting Independence Grant

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Table 2: Allocation

Out of hours development fund

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