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10 Dec 2002 : Column 279W—continued


Automated Credit Transfer

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when his Department's plans to conduct a customer information campaign on the change to automated credit transfer payment will start; what form it will take; what its budget is; and if he will make a statement. [86054]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 9 December 2002]: The Department for Work and Pensions will be converting people to Direct Payment over a two-year period, with the first payments going into accounts from April 2003. A customer information campaign will support the conversion.

We have already started to notify customers about the change to Direct Payment. The first invitation letters asking for account details started to go out to some Child Benefit customers at the end of October. We have also made information publicly available on the internet, through news releases to the media, and in articles aimed at advisers.

Next year the information campaign will give even more customers the information they need to help them make the best choice for their circumstances. The main element of the campaign is direct mail and we will write to all customers who are currently paid their benefits and state pensions by paper based methods. This is to let them know how Direct Payment affects them, and what options are available to them. We will support the mailing with an advertising and information campaign using a range of publicity media.

The detail of the campaign is still being developed, but a budget of up to #25 million is available for the campaign, spread over a three-year period (2002–03 to 2004–05).

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Bereavement Benefits

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on his policy towards claims for backpayments of bereavement benefits following the judgment given by the European Court of Human Rights on this subject on 11 June. [84318]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 9 December 2002]: Bereavement benefits were introduced from April 2001 and, for the first time, extend the help available to both men and women. For information on the judgment referred to, which concerns benefits which pre-date bereavement benefits, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) on 27 November 2002, Official Report, column 320W.

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to extend the deadline for claiming bereavement payments; whether the change will be retrospective; and if he will make a statement. [86612]

Malcolm Wicks: We want bereaved people to claim and receive the help that they and their families are entitled to when they need it—immediately after the bereavement. Most people do; more than four fifths claim within four or five weeks of their loss. However, we acknowledge that not all bereaved people find it possible to claim as promptly as the current rules for the lump-sum Bereavement Payment require. We are therefore extending the time limit for claiming Bereavement Payment and aligning it with the period over which a person can receive Bereavement Allowance—namely 12 months. We see this as a sensible alteration that will simplify the scheme for everyone while remaining compatible with underlying benefit entitlement rules.

We laid amending regulations on 24 October 2002, which will give effect to this change for claims in respect of deaths that occur on or after 1 April 2003.

Children's Mental Health

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what benefits are available to children with mental health problems. [83187]

Maria Eagle: The term Xmental health problems" covers a wide variety of symptoms. Where those symptoms impair a child's normal functioning to the extent that they amount to a severe mental disability, the child may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance 1 . The additional benefits which, subject to the normal entitlement conditions, are available to families with disabled children who qualify for Disability Living Allowance are shown in the table. The Family Fund Trust, which is funded by government, also provides grants to families of severely disabled children in order to ease the stress of their day-to-day life.

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Benefits available to families with children with a mental disability who qualify for Disability Living Allowance


Lord Birt

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Prime Minister when Lord Birt began working as an adviser to the Prime Minister on transport issues; when this role is due to end; and what the expected (a) date and (b) nature of the outcome of his work are. [86086]

The Prime Minister: Lord Birt was appointed in October 2001 as my unpaid strategy adviser for a period of up to three years. The nature of Lord Birt's work is to provide private internal advice to me and other Cabinet Ministers on a range of issues. This advice is not disclosed under Exemption 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to government Information.

Catherine Meyer

Keith Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister when he sent the letter to the Chancellor of Germany concerning the case of Catherine Meyer; and when the reply was received. [86723]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him in the House on Monday 28 October, Official Report, column 554 and the answer I gave him on Monday 25 November, Official Report, column 20W,

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A and E

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the (a) role and (b) grade is of Mr. Richard Woodfield within the Medicines Control Agency; and what assessment he has made of the performance of Mr. Woodfield in relation to the specialist natural health retail sector. [85084]

Ms Blears: Mr. Richard Woodfield is a senior civil servant employed by the Medicines Control Agency (MCA). He is the group manager with responsibility for regulatory policy on herbal medicines and management of the MCA's European support unit. I am not prepared to provide any further personal information about Mr. Woodfield.

Acute Hospitals

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients died while waiting on ambulance trolleys at acute hospitals in the past 12 months. [86040]

Mr. Lammy: This information is not collected centrally. However, we have not been made aware of any deaths attributable to waiting times in ambulances at accident and emergency departments.

Adverse Events

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on current research into adverse events in hospitals. [85774]

Mr. Lammy: As set out in the report, XAn Organisation with a Memory", international research demonstrates that significant numbers of adverse events occur in healthcare systems across the world.

In the United Kingdom, the Department has commissioned a programme of research into patient safety, which seeks to build upon and complement international work in this area. The programme is led by Professor Richard Lilford at the University of Birmingham. Work already completed includes systematic reviews of existing international research and examining the nature of errors in primary care. A number of studies are currently under way looking at obstetric injury, errors in accident and emergency units and the operating theatre, and errors resulting in litigation. Professor Lilford is working closely with the National Patient Safety Agency. Further information is available from the University of Birmingham patient safety research programme website at

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the proportion of NHS patients affected by adverse events in British hospitals in the last 12 months. [85775]

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Mr. Lammy: At the present time, we do not know what proportion of national health service patients are affected by adverse events in British hospitals. However, as reported in XAn Organisation with a Memory", a report of an expert group on learning from adverse events chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, it is estimated that errors may occur in 10 per cent. of hospital admissions. This is in line with research carried out in other countries including New Zealand, Canada and Denmark.

The Government established the National Patient Safety Agency in July 2001 to improve the safety of NHS patient care by promoting an open and fair culture and by introducing a national reporting and learning system for adverse events. It is planned for the reporting and learning system to be rolled out across the NHS from summer 2003. The system will, in time, enable us to understand the true nature and extent of adverse events in the NHS and prevent them being repeated.

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