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Criminal Records Bureau Certification

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health under what circumstances general practitioners will be obliged to complete a Criminal Records Bureau certification form; and what details will need to be provided to complete such a form. [61423]

Mr. Hutton: Section 19 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 amended section 115 of the Police Act 1997 to permit the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to provide enhanced criminal record certificates in respect of general practitioners who are included or seeking inclusion to a health authority medical, supplementary or services list.

The purpose of this amendment was to ensure that the health authority in assessing the doctor's suitability to provide primary care services on their behalf had the fullest possible report from the CRB. Criminal record certificates might well help to keep an unsuitable practitioner off the health authority lists and out of primary care.

The circumstances in which these certificates will have to be provided by general practitioners will be specified in regulations. Before such regulations are made we will consult the general practitioners' committee of the British Medical Association on the content.

The application form that has to be completed by any member of the public applying to the CRB for a criminal record certificate is prescribed in SI 2002/233 the Police Act (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002—schedule 2. A copy is available in the Library.

Nurses (Travel Expenses)

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how reimbursement for travel expenses is calculated; and what the value is of such reimbursement for each grade of staff nurse. [61427]

Mr. Hutton: Travelling expenses for national health service staff on national terms are the subject of an agreement of the general Whitley council. Expenses are generally based on reimbursement of receipted costs incurred or, in the case of staff using their own care, by payment of mileage allowances. The current rates of mileage allowances are set out in advance letter (GC) 2/2000, a copy of which is in the Library. The value of such reimbursement does not vary by grade of nurse.

Primary Care Trusts

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of health care services in their area he expects primary care trusts will be responsible for commissioning in (a) 2002, (b) 2003, (c) 2004 and (d) 2005. [61441]

Mr. Hutton: There are currently 303 primary care trusts (PCTs) established, with 99 per cent. of these being level four PCTs. Level four PCTs commission services, run community hospitals and provide community health services.

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Subject to legislation, PCTs will take on the responsibility for a greater range of functions including the commissioning of all acute and specialised services. By 2004, PCTs will be responsible for 75 per cent. of the total national health service resources.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how deficits arising in health authorities or in strategic health authorities in 2002–03 will be taken into account in allocating money to PCTs; [46415]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 26 March 2002]: Resources will continue to be allocated on the basis of the relative needs of primary care trust populations.

Under the Government's resource accounting arrangements, all health authorities are required to contain their annual expenditure within an agreed resource limit allocation. As a consequence there should be no health authority or strategic health authority deficits.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will strengthen the management of primary care trusts operating in areas of social deprivation. [59128]

Mr. Hutton: All primary care trusts have a challenging agenda to deliver the NHS Plan. We are taking steps to ensure that they have the means to strengthen their management capacity by lifting the cap on primary care trust management costs. The Modernisation Agency has also in place a number of initiatives designed to support and strengthen the organisational development of primary care trusts as well as strengthening the management capacity through initiatives such as the national primary and care trust development programme and the chief executives development programme.

From 1 April 2002 legislation provides for primary care trusts to have a director of public health on their boards. The focus of their activity will be on local neighbourhoods and communities, leading and driving programmes to improve health and reduce inequalities. They will also play a powerful role in forging partnerships with, and influencing, all local agencies to ensure the widest possible participation in the health and health care agenda.

Hearing Aids

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if a patient with an NHS-provided digital hearing aid is entitled to a replacement digital hearing and continued support with it if they move from living within an NHS trust that routinely provides digital hearing aids to an NHS trust that provides only analogue hearing aids. [61079]

Jacqui Smith: If the services commissioned by a trust locally do not meet the needs of a particular patient, then general practitioners (GPs) do have freedom to refer elsewhere using the out of area arrangements. If a patient requires replacement of a national health service digital hearing aid, and the local service has not received the training and equipment to fit such aids, the GP could refer the patient back to the department from which the aid was supplied or to an other which does have the necessary infrastructure to fit digital hearing aids.

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Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when each of the NHS trusts that have been selected to become part of the modernising hearing aid services project will start routinely issuing digital hearing aids. [61080]

Jacqui Smith: The modernising hearing aid services project is being managed on the Department's behalf by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. The project management team has contacted each of the 30 sites which will be joining the project this calendar year and are in discussion with and in the process of visiting each service. The current service is assessed (obtaining details of the sites involved, staffing, information technology needs etc.), the new service discussed and a timetable for modernisation agreed. The first of these sites should have new systems in place and staff trained and fitting digital hearing aids by the beginning of October and all 30 should be fitting them by the end of March 2003.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what initial investment is required of NHS trusts in order to apply for funding for the provision of digital hearing aids; and if he will make a statement. [61515]

Jacqui Smith: When deciding which national health service trusts would join the modernising hearing aid services project in 2002–03, we wrote to all trusts not involved in the first wave of the project, inviting them to express an interest in becoming a second wave site. We asked that any such expressions of interest should be signed by the appropriate primary care trusts who would be expected to contribute 25 per cent. of additional staffing costs and 25 per cent. of any additional cost incurred in supplying digital rather than analogue aids.

Applicants were informed that sites would be selected on the basis of preparedness, willingness to improve access for patients by providing some services from a community base, whether they were paediatric audiology departments transferring patients to existing adult sites, whether they had interest in and willingness to implement universal new-born hearing screening and bearing in mind the need to provide reasonable geographical spread of sites across the country.

Sites must have the appropriate infrastructure, information technology equipment and trained staff, before they can fit digital hearing aids.

Hospital Safety

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will set up a task group with high level participation from the Department of Health, the Fire Service and the Fire Policy Unit to consider the implications of the fire at Warrington hospital for the structure of hospital buildings, with special reference to the NHS building programme. [61407]

Jacqui Smith: Fire engineers from NHS Estates represent the Department on the national fire policy advisory group. This group comprises of members from the Chief and Assistant Chief Officers Association, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Home Office, the Institute of Building Control, the Association of County Councils and the Fire Protection Association. In addition, the Department is represented on key British standard panels relating to fire safety. I will be asking my officials to ensure the implications of the fire at

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Warrington general hospital are considered carefully. In addition, NHS Estates will be undertaking fire reviews of all new hospital schemes to ensure all necessary standards are met.

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