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7 May 2002 : Column 97W
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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. 
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.
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.
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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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