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3 Apr 2003 : Column 859W—continued

Preventive Medicine

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the role of preventative medicine in the National Health Service. [102205]

Ms Blears: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Health, in his speech to the Faculty of Public Health Medicine on 20 November 2002, reaffirmed the Government's commitment to put public health and addressing health inequality at the heart of the National Health Service. Prevention and delaying the onset of disease are key priorities of the NHS Plan, Cancer Plan, and the national service frameworks (NSFs).

The planning and priorities framework, "Improvement, Expansion and Reform", which sets out the priorities for the next three years for the NHS and social services, includes targets for:


Medical training, particularly undergraduate training is already beginning to reflect this emphasis upon prevention. Under the recently revised curriculum, set by the GeneralMedical Council, effectively on behalf of the Government, there is a substantially enhanced public health and prevention content.

School Fruit Schemes

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether, under the National School Fruit Scheme, all four-year-olds in education are entitled to a free piece of fruit each school day; and whether this entitlement applies to children in LEA maintained nursery schools, as well as nursery classes attached to primary schools. [104880]

Ms Blears: The National School Fruit Scheme is a Government commitment to entitle all four to six-year-olds to a free piece of fruit each school day from 2004.

Entitlement at present is restricted to children in areas where region-wide pilots for the scheme have already been introduced. Eligibility for these pilots is defined as four to six-year-olds in local education authority (LEA) maintained infant, primary and special schools and other children in the same classes. This includes nursery classes attached to these schools but not stand-alone nursery schools, whether or not they are LEA maintained.

During these pilots, we are keeping all aspects of the scheme under review, including the application of eligibility criteria, prior to the national scheme being introduced.

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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to protect the public against severe acute respiratory syndrome; and if he will make a statement. [105210]

Ms Blears: I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement that I gave today.

Smoking

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many smokers there are in the UK population; and what evaluation he has made of the resultant cost to the NHS per individual. [102655]

Ms Blears [holding answer 19 March 2003]: There were an estimated 12.7 million smokers in the United Kingdom in 2001.

In 1997, the latest year for which there is data, it was estimated that treating illness and disease caused by smoking costs the national health service in England up to £1.7 billion every year in terms of general practitioner visits, prescriptions, treatment and operations 1 . No comparable information is available for the remainder of the UK.

It is not possible to provide a meaningful estimate of the cost to the NHS per smoker from these data, as costs are incurred not just for current smokers but also for ex-smokers and those affected by passive smoking.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will introduce legislation to ban smoking in restaurants. [101914]

Ms Blears: The Government wants to increase the number of smoke-free environments. We have worked closely with the hospitality trade to develop a Public Places Charter designed provide customers with clear information on the type of smoking policy operating in a particularestablishment and allow them to make an informed choice.

As part of ensuring people have the information to make an informed choice we are developing education and information resources to raise awareness and understanding of the risks associated with passive smoking.

This includes increasing the visibility of health messages highlighting to smokers the risks environmental tobacco smoke presents. This is through regulations to transpose into UnitedKingdom law the European Union directive on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products. These regulations require tobacco products to carry larger and starker health warnings, on both the front and back of the packet. The dangers of passive smoking are highlighted in two of the new warnings, which include "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you" and "Protect children: don't make them breathe your smoke" The contents of tobacco smoke are also highlighted in a warning saying, "Smoke contains benzene, nitrosomines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide".

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We are also encouraging all employers to introduce smoke-free work places. This year the Department is funding local tobacco control alliances across England to carry out projects in close co-operation with local employers to tackle passive smoking and to increase the number of smoke-free environments. These projects vary in nature from the production of smoke-free guides to pubs and restaurants to the provision of advice and support to managers wishing to introduce policies. We hope that many will be suitable for national application.

Telephone Helplines

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 20 February 2003, Official Report, column 38W, on telephone helplines, how many calls were made to each helpline charged at national rate in the last year for which records are available; and what the average duration of these calls was. [105877]

Mr. Lammy: The Department does not hold records of these calls.

Two Shires Ambulance Trust

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff were employed by Two Shires Ambulance Trust in (a) 2001 and (b) 2002. [105696]

Ms Blears: I have been advised by Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority that the number of staff employed by Two Shires Ambulance Trust in 2001 was 857 and in 2002 was 923.

These figures include the staff employed by the trust who work at the NHS Direct site in Milton Keynes.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the sickness absence rate was for the Two Shires Ambulance Trust in (a) 2000, (b) 2001 and (c) 2002. [105697]

Ms Blears: The sickness absence rate for the Two Shires Ambulance National Health Service Trust for 2000 and 2001 is shown in the table. The survey for 2002 has not yet been completed.

Sickness absence rate—Two Shires Ambulance NHS Trust

Percentage
20005.5
20015.1

Notes:

1. Figures are the amount of time lost through absences as a percentage of staff time available.

2. The survey for 2002 has not yet been completed.

Source:

Department of Health survey of sickness absence.


United Kingdom Accreditation Service

Mr. Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Public Health Laboratory Service will maintain its UK Accreditation Service accreditation when it transfers into the NHS. [105487]

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Ms Blears: The Public Health Laboratory Service will be transferring to national health service trusts 31 of its laboratories that carry out general clinical diagnostic microbiology. We are advised that these transfers will not affect their accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Scheme (UKAS).

Unlicensed Taxi Drivers

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance his Department has issued to ambulance trusts on the vetting of taxi drivers used as sub-contractors to transport patients on behalf of the trust; [104620]

Mr. Lammy: The Department of Health has not had any discussions with Essex Ambulance Trust on the use of sub-contractors to transport patients on behalf of the trust.

All national health service bodies, including ambulance trusts, have to meet the control assurance standards contained in the following document, issued December 2001, "Management of Purchasing and Supply, Incorporating Control of Contracts and Contractors". A copy of this will be placed in the Library.


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