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23 Feb 2004 : Column 293Wcontinued
Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how the reorganisation of the Department will improve the response time to (a) parliamentary questions and (b) ministerial correspondence. 
Since the formation of the Department's customer service centre, there has been steady improvement during 2003 towards Whitehall standards and this is expected to continue as the centre expands to take on all departmental ministerial correspondence.
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Mr. Hutton [holding answer 9 February 2004]: The national programme for information technology is responsible for introducing the National Health Service care record service (NHS CRS), which will lead to the NHS having an integrated, electronic record management service for the first time. The NHS CRS will provide each patient with a single, comprehensive set of electronic medical and care notes. This will enable all authorised clinicians involved with the care of a patient, to see and share health information. Local practices and hospitals will continue to hold detailed local records, but additionally a summary health record will be created containing essential data such as allergies, current treatments or medication.
The NHS CRS will also ensure that key data and information is entered only once and then available to multiple users and professionals who are authorised to access. It will support better clinical decision making, remove the need for repeat and potentially harmful tests simply because the previous record is lost or not available and improve the quality of the time spent with the patient.
The security and confidentiality of patient information is an absolute priority in the context of electronic records and transmissions. Within the contracts for new applications, systems and services being negotiated with IT suppliers are stringent terms around ensuring security, control, alerts and audit measures, including encryption. We will have a right to terminate the contract of any supplier that fails to deliver the high standards that NHS patients and professionals are entitled to expect.
Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will publish the full details of the 200304 NHS performance indicators for (a) acute and specialist trusts, (b) primary care trusts, (c) mental health trusts and (d) ambulance trusts. 
Mr. Hutton: The national health service performance ratings for 200304 will be published by the new Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection. The indicators to be used for the 200304 ratings were published by the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) on 18 December 2003. Full details can be found on the CHI website at www.chi.nhs.uk.
Mr. Hutton: National health service performance indicators are now published by the Commission for Health Improvement as part of the NHS performance ratings. They measure service quality and progress in areas of importance to patients and the public. The performance ratings system assesses trusts' performance on these indicators.
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The standards will define levels of service quality, which those providing or commissioning English NHS health services should seek to achieve. The performance of the NHS against those standards will be assessed against criteria to be set by the independent Commission for Health Care Audit and Inspection.
Ms Rosie Winterton: The electronic transmission of prescriptions is one of the core programmes within the national programme for information technology (NPflT) in the national health service in England. The electronic transmission of prescriptions (ETP) programme will enable prescribers to create and transfer prescription data electronically to a patient's community pharmacist and the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA). As well as being more convenient for the patient (for example in relation to repeat prescriptions), this will improve safety by reducing prescription errors and providing better information at the point of prescribing and dispensing. It will also ensure that information about what has been prescribed and dispensed forms part of each person's NHS care record. In addition, ETP will deliver important administrative improvements.
The NHS Plan did not contain a specific target in relation to the electronic transmission of prescriptions. We are working towards the timetable for implementation contained in "Delivering 21st Century IT Support in the NHS". This stated, "the National Prescriptions Service will be 50 per cent. implemented by December 2005 and fully implemented by December 2007". This work is being taken forward by the NPfIT in the NHS.
Key elements of the electronic transmission of prescriptions system have been procured as part of the recently concluded NHS care records service procurements. Work is now focusing on how community pharmacies can be connected to the system, and how their pharmacy computer systems can be upgraded to comply with the requisite technical specification. It is intended that deployment of the live system will commence in January 2005.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the safety of care provided by co-operatives and other organisations providing out-of-hours primary care services. 
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Accreditation ensures that providers meet nationally set quality standards, including clinical governance. Providers must report regularly to PCTs on performance, and strategic health authorities performance manage PCTs in their delivery of out of hours services.
All organised providers of out-of-hours services will be accredited by March 2004. Thereafter, they will be subject to re-accreditation at least once every three years, unless an accrediting PCT has grounds to lead it to initiate an earlier re-accreditation. Provider assessment is undertaken by a PCT outside the area that is covered by the provider, to ensure impartiality.
Under the new general medical services (GMS) contract everyone who provides services out of hours, including individuals contracted by the PCT, as well as organisations, will need to meet the national quality standards. These standards are currently under review by an expert group to make them an integral part of GMS and personal medical services contracting.
Mr. Hutton: Information on the number of adverse incidents that occurred in co-operatives and other out of hours primary care services are not held centrally. Primary care trusts (PCTs) and before them, health authorities, are responsible for ensuring that out of hours services are provided to the highest standard. Since October 2002, the performance of all providers of out of hours services have been judged against nationally set quality standards, including clinical governance. Providers must report regularly to PCTs on performance and are re-accredited at least once every three years, unless an accrediting PCT has grounds to lead it to initiate an earlier re-accreditation. Strategic health authorities performance manage PCTs in their delivery of out of hours services.
Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding is available in 200304 to the local health authorities in (a) Merseyside and (b) Cheshire for the development of renal services. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: In 200304, £3 million was identified by primary care trusts (PCTs) for investment into the development of renal services to support Cheshire and Merseyside renal patients. This is revenue funding and does not include the national renal capital funding. It is in addition to the PCT baseline investment.
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