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Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average time taken between the initial advertising of NHS IT contracts with a value of more than #5 million and the final contract award has been in the last month. 
The Department, at the centre, only approves NHS information management and technology business cases that exceed #20 million whole life cost. The remaining cases are dealt with at various intermediate levels in the NHS; previously by regional offices and now strategic health authorities. We do not maintain a central list of cases approved in the NHS.
As part of the implementation programme for NHS information technology currently going forward within the Government's X21st Century IT" strategy, a national specification for the integrated care records service element was published for consultation on 26 July 2002.
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Mr. Lammy: Thee procurement strategy for the national programme for information technology in the National Health Service will be in line with European Union Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) regulations and procedures and also covered by the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).
The purpose of the procurement strategy is to simplify the contracting environment for NHS IT projects by reducing the duplication and delay that can be the result of running numerous local procurement exercises in parallel.
The national programme and its key deliverables are subject to the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review process. They will examine the procurement strategy and provide assurance that the selected procurement approach is appropriate for the proposed programme and in line with good practice.
Ms Blears: The Department does not keep central records of local information management and technology projects. Projects are managed by the local National Health Service organisation under the relevant standing financial instructions. There is no general requirement to report cost over-runs or re-specifications to the Department.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on the implications of a moratorium in localized IT purchasing by the NHS for the viability of smaller suppliers. 
The new national programme for IT in the NHS was announced by my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, on 12 June 2002. We are planning significant increases in expenditure from April 2003 onwards in the NHS following the recommendations of the Wanless Report. The final details of the new funding in the 2002 Spending Review are still being worked on and an announcement will be made shortly.
The Department has issued a prior information notice (PIN), a tender notice that is published as part of the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) series. The PIN invites interested parties to respond to fulfilling the role of prime contractors and suppliers in the delivery of the national IT programme.
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Mr. Lammy: The national programme for information technology in the national health service focuses on the key developments that will make a significant difference to improving the patient experience and the delivery of care and services. There are four key deliverables: electronic appointment booking, an electronic care records service, an electronic prescribing service and an underpinning IT infrastructure with sufficient capacity to support the critical national applications and local systems.
To support better central direction a ministerial task force has been established under the chairmanship of my noble friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. Each strategic health authority has appointed a chief information officer. They have a pivotal role in including costed IT plans in their local delivery plans and ensuring primary care trusts and NHS trusts implement and use the core IT solutions determined at national level.
Since Richard Granger took up the post of Director General of NHS IT on 7 October there has been a great deal of progress and accelerating the mobilisation of the national programme has been a priority.
A significant step forward has been the issue of a prior information notice (PIN), a tender notice that is published as part of the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) series. The PIN invites interested parties to respond to fulfilling the role of prime contractors and suppliers in the delivery of the national IT programme.
The focus in the early part of the year will remain on strengthening programme management, including risk management and progress monitoring, ensuring faster and smarter procurement and providing a clear and meaningful critical path for implementation.
Mr. Lammy [holding answer 12 December 2002]: Figures held centrally for general practitioner practice connections are shown in the table. These are for centrally funded connections; connections for other GP premises such as part-time surgeries are a matter for local arrangements.
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Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to reply to written questions refs. 80495 and 80496 tabled by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme on 13 November 2002. 
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received from (a) ambulance unions and (b) other representatives of ambulance workers about delays in the admission of patients from ambulances into A&E units. 
Jacqui Smith: A study of the physical health of sentenced male prisoners was undertaken in 1994. It showed that 81 per cent. of sentenced male prisoners smoked and 30 per cent. were overweight. This is still considered to be representative of the current prison population.
Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the progress made by primary care trusts in carrying out their roles; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Hutton [holding answers 19 December 2002:] In April 1999 the Department commissioned the national primary care research and development centre (NPCRDC) at Manchester University and the King's Fund to undertake a longitudinal survey (the Tracker Survey), of a representative sample of primary care groups and trusts over their first three years of development.
The research has concluded that primary care groups and trusts have continued to build on their early achievements in establishing infrastructures and their capacity to improve services. They have continued to improve access to care, extend the range of services
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available in primary care settings and raise quality standards. The reports are available on the NPCRDC website at: www.npcrdc.man.ac.uk
The national primary and care trust development programme (NatPaCT) has also been working with primary care trusts (PCTs) to develop a competency framework as a self-assessment tool to help PCTs assess their organisational competence to deliver the National Health Service agenda. It provides guidance on organisational and personal competencies. The NatPaCT programme and competency framework has been made available to all PCTs and can also be downloaded from the NatPaCT website at: www.natpact.nhs.uk
Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the Diabetes National Service Framework Delivery Strategy before primary care trusts plan their expenditure for future years. 
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