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9 Nov 2004 : Column 641W—continued

Eye Tests

Jon Cruddas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many pensioners in the Dagenham constituency have had free eye tests since they were introduced. [196452]

Dr. Ladyman: Figures for the number of sight tests by constituency, or pensioners are not collected centrally. However the Department does collect statistics on the number of sight tests paid for patients aged 60 and over.

These data are shown in the table, which shows the number of national health service sight tests paid by Barking and Havering health authority (HA) for the years ending 31 March 2000 to 2003 and the primary care trust (PCT), covering Barking and Dagenham for the year ending 31 March 2004.
General ophthalmic services: number of sight tests paid by Barking and Havering HA for patients aged 60 and over for the years ending 31 March 2000 to 2004

HA/PCT name
Number of sight tests for people aged 60 and over (Thousand)
1999–2000Barking and Havering24.9
2000–01Barking and Havering29.3
2001–02Barking and Havering33.1
2002–03Barking and Havering36.1
2003–04Barking and Dagenham PCT9.3
Havering PCT26.0
TotalBarking and Havering35.3

1. Eligibility for NHS sight tests was extended to patients aged 60 and over from 1 April 1999.
2. PCTs took over responsibilities from HAs in October 2002.

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It should be noted that the number of sight tests cannot be equated to the numbers of patients. Most people do not come back for a sight test within the year, but some patients suffering from medical conditions are advised to have re-examinations sooner.

GP Vacancies

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the general practitioner vacancy rates were for each primary care trust in England at (a) 31 March 2003, (b) 30 September 2003, (c) 31 March 2004 and (d) 30 September 2004. [195806]

Mr. Hutton: The information requested is not available at primary care trust level.

The estimated three-month general practitioner vacancy rate in England decreased from 3.4 per cent. in March 2003 to 3 per cent. in March 2004.

EU Committees

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many times during the Greek presidency of the EU the (a) Advisory Committee on Medical Devices, (b) Committee of senior officials on public health and (c) Pharmaceutical Committee met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (i) technical and (ii) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations each Committee produced during that period; what actions were (A) proposed and (B) taken by (1) the EU and (2) the UK Government as a result of each Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [196100]

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Mr. Hutton: The Medical Devices Expert's Group (MDEG) met once during the Greek Presidency. The meeting took place on 7–8 April 2003 in Brussels. A senior official from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) represented the United Kingdom. There were no technical or financial issues raised by the UK representative at the meeting. MDEG is chaired by the EU Commission and composed of representatives from member states, industry, Notified Bodies and the various Standard organisations. It has no decision making powers and accordingly there were no recommendations proposed by it during the Greek Presidency.

The Committee of Senior Officials on Public Health met during the Greek presidency, on 30 June in Brussels. UK Government experts attended the meeting, at which a wide range of relevant topics was discussed. These included EU enlargement, the status of third country nationals, exchange of information on professionals' fitness to practise, the Tennah-Durez ECJ judgment, implementation of the SLIM Directive, and updates on implementation in member states of directives on mutual recognition of professional qualifications in respect of dentists, doctors, nurses and midwives. Actions flowing from these discussions have been pursued through the appropriate channels.

The Pharmaceutical Committee met once during the Greek Presidency. The meeting took place on 15 May 2003 in Brussels. The UK is usually represented by senior officials from the Department and the MHRA. There were no technical or financial issues raised by the UK representative at the meeting. The Pharmaceutical Committee is an advisory committee and has no decision-making powers. There were, therefore, no recommendations proposed by the committee during the Greek Presidency.

Hospital Funding

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the (a) brought forward debt at the start of the year, (b) overspending during the year before the provision of any special funding to help balance the books, (c) carried forward debt at the end of the year and (d) amount of special funding provided by the NHS Bank to address the debt was for the Ashford and St. Peter's hospitals NHS trust in each of the last five financial years; [196523]

(2) what the projected overspend is for 2004–05 before the deduction of the £13 million special grant for the Ashford and St. Peter's hospitals NHS trust. [196524]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 8 November 2004]: Published information about debt, overspend, projected overspend and special funding for Ashford and St. Peter's hospitals national health service trust is shown in the table.

At month six, the trust is forecasting a break-even year end position after £13 million special assistance.
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Brought forwardSurplus deficit before special assistanceSpecial assistanceCarried forward

1. NHS Bank funding commenced in 2000–03.
2. Minus sign represents deficits.

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much additional funding was made available to Ashford and St. Peter's hospitals NHS trust for implementing the new consultants' contracts; and what percentage of the total cost this figure represents. [196525]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 8 November 2004]: We do not allocate funding to national health service trusts. NHS trusts, as providers of services, receive the bulk of their revenue funding from primary care trusts (PCTs), via their commissioning arrangements.

The local delivery planning process ultimately informs the level of funding for provider organisations. The funding for NHS trusts is therefore dependent on the level of services they are able to contract with commissioning PCTs.


Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the cost to the NHS of post-hysterectomy treatment, including drug therapy, in the last year for which figures are available. [195031]

Dr. Ladyman: This information is not available centrally.


Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will place in the Library copies of the minutes of meetings of the board of the national programme for IT in the NHS. [196985]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 8 November 2004]: We have no current plans to do so.

The board of the national programme for information technology (NPfIT) is primarily concerned with regular review of the performance of these private sector organisations. The contracts between the NPfIT and the organisations concerned include legally binding confidentiality undertakings, in line with standard commercial contract terms. Agreement to publish board minutes would, therefore, put the NPfIT in breach of these undertakings.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research has been undertaken by the National Programme for IT on the views of (a) hospital doctors and nurses, (b) general practitioners and other practice staff and (c) all other NHS staff on the introduction of the new IT system for the NHS. [196240]

Mr. Hutton: Engaging clinicians and national health service management in planning and preparation for successful implementation of the national programme has always been, and continues to be, a key priority. As well as the national professional bodies and groups, the
9 Nov 2004 : Column 645W
national programme team has also consulted closely with individual expert primary and secondary care practitioners, including practising general practitioners. A series of workshops has also been held across the NHS involving clinicians to help inform the information technology development by suppliers.

In addition, the care record development board, established in July and chaired by Mr. Harry Cayton, the Department's director for patients and the public, has its membership drawn from clinicians as well as representatives of patients and social care. The board brings together patients, public, social and healthcare professionals to provide clinical and patient input into the national programme's work. The work of the board will enable wider consultation and input into the way the NHS care records service is being developed and aims to ensure the NHS maximises the benefits that the new IT has to offer to support improvements in care.

Arrangements for clinical engagement are being further strengthened by the appointment of clinical leads to represent GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and allied health professionals at national, cluster and local health community level.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how the National Programme for IT is meeting concerns of general practitioners about (a) the change over to the new IT system and (b) the loss of IT systems in which local GP practices have previously invested. [196241]

Mr. Hutton: The national programme for information technology (NPfIT) has always made it clear that the best use should and will be made of the existing asset base so long as it continues to provide value and be fit for purpose. General practitioners are being advised that, certainly in the short and medium term, existing clinical systems can continue to be used subject to compliance criteria. This message has been repeated in guidance published by the national programme, aimed at existing systems suppliers. No practice will be expected to move from current systems until the same or greater levels of functionality than GPs currently enjoy are available under the national programme, unless that is part of an agreed strategy or by choice for specific reasons.

However, in the longer term it may be necessary for some existing systems to be replaced or integrated. At that stage each GP practice will have a choice of more than one system so long as these have been accredited against national standards and can deliver the required functionality. This undertaking is spelt out in guidance agreed jointly with the British Medical Association.

Individual GP practices will receive funding to upgrade to NPfIT systems through their primary care trusts. Systems provided by NPfIT will be at no cost to GP practices. In addition, the National Programme will cover centrally the cost of supplier-developed training material, including e-training services, and training the trainers in the use of new IT services.

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