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3 Dec 2003 : Column 73Wcontinued
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of changes in the level of alcohol abuse among young women; and what measures he will take to reduce it. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: Data on the level of alcohol abuse among young women are shown in the table. This suggests that, although a cause for concern, the numbers remain constant.
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|Drank nothing last week||38||38||41|
|Drank up to three units on at least one day||20||23||20|
|Drank more than three and up to six units on at least one day||19||13||13|
|Drank more than six units on at least one day||23||26||26|
Derived from Office for National Statistics: General Household Survey, published as "Living in Britain, Results from the 2001 General Household Survey", available at: http://www. statistics.gov.uk/lib2001/index.html
Alcohol use and misuse among young women will be examined as part of the work on the development of the Government's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England. The strategy will be published in time for implementation to begin in 2004, in line with the commitment given by the Government in the NHS Plan.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many finished consultant episodes related to alcoholic liver disease there were in (a) England and (b) each region in each year since 1997. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The number of finished consultant episodes related to alcoholic liver disease within national health service hospitals by region and nationally are shown in the table.
|Region of treatment||199798||199899||19992000||200001||200102|
|Y00 Not known||2|||||||||
|Y01 Northern and Yorkshire Regional Office||1,700||1,934||2,030||2,272||2,323|
|Y02 Trent Regional Office||1,143||1,256||1,588||1,795||1,765|
|Y03 Anglia and Oxford Regional Office||1,033||1,180||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Y04 North Thames Regional Office||1,795||1,640||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Y05 South Thames Regional Office||1,504||1,620||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Y06 South and West Regional Office||1,555||1,741||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Y07 West Midlands Regional Office||1,688||1,786||1,857||1,907||1,982|
|Y08 North and West Regional Office||2,627||2,532||2,985||3,226||3,600|
|Y09 Eastern Regional Office||n/a||n/a||1,348||1,588||1,696|
|Y10 London Regional Office||n/a||n/a||2,273||2,255||2,284|
|Y11 South East Regional Office||n/a||n/a||1,872||1,796||2,055|
|Y12 South West Regional Office||n/a||n/a||1,419||1,583||1,701|
Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), Department of Health.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many bed days relating to alcoholic liver disease there were in England in 199798. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The number of bed days in national health service hospitals in England in 199798, where patients were admitted with a primary diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease, was 106,943.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress in meeting targets set by the National Cancer Plan. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: Thanks to major additional investment and the hard work of those working in the national health service, we are making real progress in implementing the NHS Cancer Plan and patients are benefiting from improvements across all aspects of cancer care.
For example, there are an extra 941 cancer consultants compared with 1997; nearly 99 per cent. of people with suspected cancer are now seen by a specialist within two weeks of being referred by their general practitioner; we have improved the quality of breast screening by the introduction of two view mammography and are extending the breast screening service to include women aged 65 to 70. This has resulted in nearly 200,000 extra women being invited for breast screening since April 2001. Since April 2000, we have delivered over 950 of the most modern pieces of equipment to diagnose and treat cancer to hospitals. We have increased the NHS funding
3 Dec 2003 : Column 75W
of specialist palliative care by £50 million a year, an increase of nearly 40 per cent., and latest figures show a reduction of 10 per cent. in the death rate from cancer.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on radiotherapy capacity in the UK relative to that in other European countries. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department is aware of the recent Royal College of Radiologists publication on radiotherapy capacity, which included a selective comparison with three European countries. It provided data on 'megavoltage machines' (including cobalt units) rather than linear accelerators (linacs). Linacs in England are provided with modern treatment facilities as standard, rather than older cobalt units.
The number of linacs installed is projected to increase from 140 in 1997 to over 200 by the end of 2004 through central funding, in line with the commitment in the NHS Cancer Plan to achieve four linacs per million population.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action his Department is taking to increase radiotherapy capacity in line with increased demand. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: Access to radiotherapy equipment has improved steadily since 1997. The number of linear accelerators (linacs) installed is projected to increase from 140 in 1997 to over 200 by the end of 2004 through central funding, in line with the commitment in the NHS Cancer Plan to achieve four linacs per million population.
Capacity and demand projections are being determined locally by cancer networks alongside local stakeholders.
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment his Department has made of the administrative costs of the voucher system for Carers' Short Breaks; and what proportion they are of the total spending; 
(3) when his Department will review the operation of the vouchers available under the Carers' Short Break scheme, introduced in May 2003. 
Dr. Ladyman: Under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, councils have discretion to establish short break voucher schemes for carers. The intention is that flexible schemes should be developed in consultation with stakeholders according to local need. Voucher schemes will be attractive to some carers, but it is not the intention that all breaks services should be delivered through vouchers. Vouchers were introduced to widen the choice available to carers.
In 200304, the Carers Grant is worth £100 million to support councils in the provision of breaks and services direct to carers. The conditions of the grant ensure that
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the majority of this money is for flexible breaks services. Information about the proportion of this sum, that is delivered through vouchers, is not held centrally.
The Government have no current plans to review the operation of voucher schemes.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will reply to the letter of 10 October from the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam concerning continuing care. 
Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 1 December 2003]: The reply was sent on 25 November 2003.
Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will reply to the letter dated 15 September, from the hon. Member for Billericay, regarding the group known as Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: A response was sent to the hon. Member on 27 November 2003.
Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many claims for statutory interest payments have been submitted to his Department under the terms of the Late Payment of Commercial Debt (Interest) Act 1998; how many claims were met; and what the total value was of such payments in each year since the Act has been in operation. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department has not received any claims for interest under the terms of the Late Payment of Commercial Debt Act 1998, and no interest has been paid since the Act came into force on 1 November 1998.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research he has (a) initiated and (b) evaluated on the possible leukaemia threat to the children of dockyard radiation workers. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department is funding an investigation of the geographical distribution of childhood cancer and leukaemia in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and how the pattern of cases around nuclear installations compares with the national pattern.
When the study is complete, the Department will ask the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) to advise on which, if any, nuclear installations in Great Britain have incidences of childhood cancer and leukaemia in their vicinity which are statistically outside the distribution seen nationally. COMARE is hoping to report on this aspect of the study to the Department in 2004. The study includes all cases of childhood cancer registered from the 1960s up to the late 1990s, and will include the children of dockyard radiation workers.
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