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HEALTH

Agenda for Change

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what flexibilities exist within Agenda for Change to provide high cost of living supplements to wage payments. [156281]

Mr. Hutton: Under the proposed new pay system, Agenda for Change, current arrangements for London allowances will be replaced by a new harmonised system of high cost area supplements. Any changes to the value or geographic coverage of these supplements will usually be agreed at national level. National health service employing organisations will also have the flexibility to pay recruitment and retention premiums, subject to consultation with neighbouring employers and strategic health authorities.

Care Workers

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his policy towards the employment in the UK of care workers from (a) non-EU European countries, (b) Asia and (c) Africa. [153914]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 11 February 2004]: It is the responsibility of individual employers to ensure that their recruitment policies and procedures comply with current legislation whether recruiting within England or abroad.

Following research and advice obtained from a broad range of industry bodies, in consultation with Work Permits (UK)'s healthcare sector panel, the role of care assistant (or other occupational roles involving duties and responsibilities at a similar level) has been identified as not satisfying the skills criteria of the work permit arrangements. Consequently, even though employers may be experiencing difficulty in recruiting for posts of this level, as the job itself does not satisfy the criteria of the arrangements, applications would necessarily be refused.

Children Green Paper

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what role is envisaged for school nurses arising from proposals for improved child protection in the Children Green Paper. [153898]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 9 February 2004]: It is expected that school nurses will continue to contribute to child protection, working with others to identify, monitor and support vulnerable school aged children and young people. As a result of the Green Paper, school nurses will be expected to work more closely with education and social care, contributing to common assessments and working in integrated children's teams, through initiatives such as extended schools. There will be a greater focus on early intervention and prevention and school nurses will need to ensure that children and young people are involved in decision making.

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The chief nursing officer is currently undertaking a review of the nursing/ midwifery and health visiting contribution to children at risk, which will include school nursing.

Consultant Contract

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate his Department has made of the cost to public funds of the consultant contract. [154145]

Mr. Hutton: The estimated costs of the new consultant contract, as agreed between the Department, the British Medical Association and NHS Confederation, are around £135 million in 2003–04, rising to around £250 million in 2005–06.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his Department's timetable is for implementation of the new consultant contract. [154439]

Mr. Hutton: Following the agreement reached last year with the British Medical Association and the NHS Confederation, national health service trusts and other employing organisations were asked to use the new NHS consultants' contract for all new appointments advertised after 31 October 2003 and to give all existing consultants the opportunity to indicate by 31 October 2003 whether they wished to give a commitment to the new contract. For existing consultants, the timetable assumed that, once a commitment had been given, trusts and consultants should seek to agree new job plans typically within three months, but the timetable recognised that trusts might need slightly longer than this to complete the process for all their consultants. We expect that the great majority of consultants who have given a commitment to the new contract will have agreed job plans by 31 March 2004. Where, exceptionally, there are any consultants whose job plans have taken longer to complete than other consultants, NHS trusts and other employing organisations have been asked to agree arrangements with their strategic health authority to complete the process as early as possible in the new financial year.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on delays in the implementation of the new consultant contract. [154440]

Mr. Hutton: We are aware that the British Medical Association and some individuals have expressed concerns about the time needed for trusts to complete the process of agreeing new job plans with their consultants. The timetable agreed with the British Medical Association explicitly recognised that trusts may need longer than three months to agree job plans. We have nonetheless asked trusts to ensure that they complete the great majority of new job plans by 31 March, while continuing to ensure that job planning delivers the intended benefits of the new consultants' contract for national health service patient care.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding has been allocated for implementation of the new consultant contract; and whether that funding has been spent. [154441]

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Mr. Hutton: For 2003–04, additional funding worth 0.3 per cent. of allocations (around £135 million) has been allocated to primary care trusts to meet the estimated costs of the new consultant contract, with a further 0.1 per cent. in 2004–05 and a further 0.1 per cent. in 2005–06. Information on the expenditure so far committed to meet the costs of the new contract is not available centrally.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on the funding of the new consultant contract; and if he will make a statement. [154442]

Mr. Hutton: A number of national health service organisations have sought further information from the Department about the basis for the funding allocated to primary care trusts for 2003–04 onwards to meet the estimated costs of the new contract. The Department and the NHS Modernisation Agency have provided further guidance to the NHS on this subject. The allocations are based on cost assumptions agreed with the British Medical Association and the other parties to the negotiations on the new contract.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the maximum number of programmed activities that a consultant should undertake per week is under the consultant contract. [154443]

Mr. Hutton: The new consultants' contract is based on a standard weekly commitment of 10 programmed activities for full-time consultants. The inclusion of additional programmed activities in consultants' job plans is ultimately a matter for agreement locally between national health service employing organisations and consultants, subject to ensuring that such agreements do not contravene the requirements of the Working Time Directive. The Department, the British Medical Association and NHS Confederation have agreed, however, that it should be one of the principal objectives of the contract to prioritise the use of consultants' time more effectively and better manage consultant workload.

Consultant Job Plans

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects all consultants to have a job plan. [154148]

Mr. Hutton: We expect that the great majority of consultants who have given a commitment to the new national health service consultants' contract will have agreed job plans by 31 March 2004. Where, exceptionally, NHS trusts and other employing organisations consider that it will take longer to complete the job planning process for all consultants, they have been asked to agree arrangements with their strategic health authority to complete the process as early as possible in the new financial year.

Correspondence

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he intends to reply to the hon. Member for Southend West's letter of 13 November 2003. [156355]

Dr. Ladyman: A reply was sent to the hon. Member on Thursday, 11 December 2003.

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Dental Treatment

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will ring fence the expenditure of primary care trusts for dental treatment. [155436]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 23 February 2004]: The resources for general dental services (CDS) which are currently held centrally will be devolved to primary care trusts (PCTs) from 1 April 2005. PCTs will be notified of these devolved dentistry budgets for 2005-06 during Autumn 2004. The dentistry budgets will be issued alongside PCTs' general allocations. The allocations will include funds currently spent on emergency dental services.

We have guaranteed that dentists working in the GDS will have an automatic right to a contract under the new arrangements and that their gross earnings will be protected over the transition period of three years. During this period, PCTs' newly devolved dentistry allocations will represent a minimum level of spend on national health service dentistry which PCTs must maintain.


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