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25. Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have been waiting 13 weeks or more to see a consultant; and what the figure was on 31 March 1997. 
Mr. Hutton: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) earlier today.
26. Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received on NHS dental service provision in Lancashire. 
Since the beginning of October last year, Ministers have replied to three Parliamentary Questions and one letter from an hon. Member on this subject.
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27. Mr. Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if the increase in funding for the NHS announced in the Budget will be used to write off the debts of those health authorities and NHS trusts that are in debt. 
Resources will continue to be allocated on the basis of the relative needs of Primary Care Trust populations.
It will be used to build capacity to allow more patients to be treated and more people cared for more quickly and to higher standards.
28. Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress towards a reduction in hospital-acquired infections. 
Yvette Cooper: For the first time this February we published methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus rates for all English acute hospital trusts. This will provide a baseline to measure improvements in hospital acquired infection. A range of actions to reduce HAI is under way and a targeted action plan is being developed as part of the infectious disease strategy.
29. Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will restore patients' rights to seek referral by their general practitioners for publicly funded treatment in any NHS hospital. 
Mr. Hutton: Previous arrangements only gave some general practitioners, not patients, choice over where patients were treated. We are committed to giving all patients choice, for the first time, over where and when they are treated. By 2005, all patients, together with their GPs, will be able to choose the date, time and place of their treatment.
Through the additional resources made available to the national health service each year, we are demonstrating our commitment by piloting patient choice from July 2002. Funding for the NHS announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer further demonstrates this commitment.
31. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will increase funding for hospices to compensate for higher national insurance contributions. 
Yvette Cooper: The Government are making an extra £50 million available for specialist palliative care, including hospices by 2004. This investment must be based on locally agreed strategic plans for palliative care. We are monitoring progress in providing this extra investment. We would expect the national health service to take all matters including national insurance contributions into consideration when deciding the level of funding for hospices.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of in-patient hospice services are provided by the independent charitable sector. 
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Yvette Cooper: About 80 per cent. of all in-patient specialist palliative care beds are provided in voluntary hospices.
32. Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what incentives are given to dentists to practise within the NHS in socially deprived areas. 
Ms Blears: Health authorities have the power to commission local personal dental services contracts with dentists. This provides for the occasional treatment of non-registered patients and is particularly useful in making up shortfalls in urgent treatment. The Government supported this scheme with over £1 million funding in 200102 and we are currently considering ways of building on this provision during 200203.
This is an especially valuable service to patients in deprived areas where registrations with dentists are particularly low. In addition, dental access centres are increasing opportunities for employment of salaried dentists in a number of socially deprived areas.
37. Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of (a) children and (b) adults in England are registered with an NHS dentist. 
Ms Blears: 60 per cent. of children and 43 per cent. of adults were registered with a General Dental Service (GDS) dentist in England at 28 February 2002.
38. Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on NHS dental services. 
Ms Blears: Arrangements are now in place to ensure that patients can gain access to National Health Services simply by calling NHS Direct. This means that even if a patient chooses not to register with a dentist it will still be possible for that patient to access all forms of dentistry that are provided by the NHS.
Over the last 18 months we have spent £100 million on modernising NHS dentistry. £10 million of this was for the dental care development fund and the dentistry action plan fund to support local plans to improve access. This money enables health authorities to assist dentists seeking to set up new practices and to expand and modernise existing ones.
The modernising project "Options for Change" is looking at all aspects of the delivery of dental care, and has involved the profession at a high level throughout.
Officials have developed a positive relationship with the profession, and are continuing to work with them to improve the remuneration system, and provide incentives for dentists to remain in the NHS. This year the commitment payment scheme, which has been well received by the profession, was extended to include dentists with five years of service in the NHS.
33. Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to establish an international centre of excellence for the training of senior health managers. 
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Mr. Hutton: The NHS Modernisation Agency and NHS Leadership Centre provide leading edge training for senior health managers and clinicians drawing on national and international experts in the fields of leadership development, strategic change management and service redesign. Close links are being made with the National Health Service University as it develops its curriculum.
34. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact of rising property prices on the number of private nursing and residential care homes. 
Jacqui Smith: The Department is funding the personal social services research unit to examine the reasons behind home closures. The most commonly cited cause was found to be business failure. Among the other factors identified was the high value of property, making it attractive for care home owners to cash in their investments.
As announced on 17 April by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are increasing the resources for personal social services by an annual average of 6 per cent. in real terms from 200304 to 200506. Local authorities will be able to use these substantial extra resources to stabilise the care home market and to enable them to pay fair and realistic fee levels.
35. Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the costs to the national health service in this financial year of alcohol abuse; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears: Three independent studies have been undertaken looking at the costs of alcohol abuse.
In 1987 a study by Godfrey and Maynard estimated the cost to the National Health Service was £400 million. A further study by Godfrey and Hardman in 1994 estimated the cost to the NHS in 1992 was around £200 million. The most recent study by the Royal College of Physician published in 2001 estimated the cost as £3 billion.
39. Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on steps he is taking to deal with alcohol abuse and its impact on health services. 
Ms Blears: We are undertaking a number of initiatives to reduce alcohol misuse, for the benefit of both patients and public services. These include work on health promotion and education, the piloting of a new alcohol training course for general practitioners and practice nurses to help them to support patients who need to cut down on their alcohol consumption, the funding of nearly 500 alcohol treatment services in England and cracking down on violence towards NHS staff through the NHS zero tolerance zone campaign. The national strategy to tackle alcohol misuse, which the Department will be implementing by 2004, will also consider the impact of alcohol misuse on the public services and wider society.
40. Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the availability of alcohol care services. 
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Ms Blears: A recent study carried out for the Department indicated that there were nearly 500 alcohol treatment services in England. The provision of alcohol treatment services is principally a local matter. Primary care trusts carry out assessments of local need and commission services to meet that need.
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