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15 Jan 2004 : Column 847W—continued



Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what improvements he expects choice in the NHS will have for deaf people (a) in arranging an appointment and (b) in communicating with their doctor. [147696]

Dr. Ladyman: "Building on the Best: Choice", Responsiveness and Equity in the NHS draws out the main themes that emerged from our recent consultation on what changes would do most to improve the experience of health care for patients, users and carers. Building on the Best confirms that the commitment in the NHS Plan for a national interpreting and translation service has been initiated by NHS Direct. The interpretation component will include a requirement to provide services for people who use British Sign Language. Over time, this contract will be available to help deaf people arrange appointments and communicate with their doctors.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what information his Department collects in respect of waiting times for audiology services; [147751]

Dr. Ladyman: The Department does not collect centrally information about waiting times for non-consultant led specialities such as audiology, nor about contracts entered into by local services.

The national framework agreement awarded to David Ormerod Hearing Centres and Ultravox Holdings plc in October 2003 will provide a service to patients on the same basis as the national health service, which remains responsible for the patients' care. It has so far involved sites in Shrewsbury, Leeds, Bradford, Bath, Bournemouth and East Cheshire. This partnership agreement is now being rolled out nationally.

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Cannabis Use (Schizophrenia)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research his Department has commissioned into cannabis use and schizophrenia. [148275]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Department of Health-funded research completed last year recognised that, while a causative link between early cannabis use and later development of schizophrenia and depression is not conclusively proven, recent epidemiological research has shown a stronger association than was previously evident. Although we have not commissioned further specific research into cannabis and schizophrenia, the Department monitors research is this area and has a range of expert advisers to inform policy.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department has taken to improve the understanding among health professionals of the symptoms and effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. [147460]

Miss Melanie Johnson: On 22 February 2002, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Sir Liam Donaldson and the Chief Nursing Officer, Sarah Mullally, published an updated letter, "Carbon Monoxide: the forgotten Killer". The letter pulled together the most current information available on carbon monoxide and was forwarded to community nurses, midwives, health visitors and general practitioners, professionals who are most likely to be aware of patients' living conditions and so identify those at increased risk. This letter was originally published on 7 September 1998.

Similarly, the quarterly "CMO Update" has included several reminders to GPs on the importance of diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning since 1998. Officials also issued a video in March 2002, prepared for the Health and Safety Executive, to all GP surgeries. The video highlights the main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as advising GPs on how to diagnose possible cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Care Homes

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether it is appropriate for an independent review panel to take into account, in making their decisions on health care funding for people living in care homes, (a) the job status of the carers and (b) the classification of the home in which the care is received. [147555]

Dr. Ladyman: Eligibility for fully funded national health service continuing care is decided upon the patient's needs. When considering eligibility for fully funded NHS continuing care, and during any reviews of such decisions, the job status of any carers should make no difference to the decision. The care the patient receives and the setting in which it is provided should be based entirely on the patient's needs.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will review the eligibility criteria of Essex Strategic Health Authority for health care funding for people living in residential care homes. [147556]

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Dr. Ladyman: Establishing and reviewing eligibility criteria for national health service fully funded continuing care is a responsibility of the strategic health authority, which will have taken legal advice when establishing the criteria.

Chemical Regulation

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the forthcoming EU Chemical Regulation; and if he will make a statement. [147232]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department has been consulted on the Government Position Statement on the new European Union chemicals strategy that was published in December 2002 and on the Government's response to the European Commission's internet consultation on the workability of its draft proposal in June last year.

Officials from the Department continue to be involved in the cross-Government steering committee that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has established on this issue.

Colloidal Silver

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of colloidal silver as a treatment for MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections. [146718]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We are not aware of any peer-reviewed or clinical trial evidence that colloidal silver is an effective treatment for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or other hospital-acquired infections. Colloidal silver has antibacterial properties, but it is not used as an alternative to antibiotics because of its toxicity when taken internally.

Delayed Discharges

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what targets were set for delayed discharge of patients aged 75 years and over for each quarter in each year since 1997. [147305]

Dr. Ladyman: Performance targets for the delayed discharge of patients aged 75 years and over occupying an acute bed have been set on an annual basis, rather than a quarterly target, since 2000–01. Each of these targets was set out in the relevant year's Planning and Priorities Framework, published by the Department of Health.

These targets are shown in the table.


There was no numerical target set for 2003–04; the NHS Plan target is to end "widespread bed blocking".

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Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many delayed discharges of patients aged 75 years and over there were in each quarter in each year since 1997. [147306]

Dr. Ladyman: The information requested is shown in the table and is also available in the Library.

Numbers of adult patients over 75 in acute beds with delayed discharge—quarterly figures 1997–2003

QuarterNumber of patients
September 20032,988
June 20033,100
March 20033,031
December 20023,502
September 20024,147
June 2002(1)
March 20024,691
December 20015,117
September 20015,673
June 20015,396
March 20015,938
December 20005,801
September 20005,958
June 20005,538
March 20005,431
December 19995,419
September 19995,552
June 19995,276
March 19995,891
December 19985,772
September 19986,219
June 19986,180
March 19986,265
December 19976,451
September 19976,854

(1) No date


Reliable data was not available for over 75s for this quarter, because of structural changes resulting from Shifting the Balance of Power. The figure for all adults was 4,924.

Departmental Relocation

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment his Department has made of the benefits of relocation of staff to North Staffordshire; and if he will make a statement; [146870]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, on 12 January 2004, Official Report, column 516W.

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