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Teachers' TV Board of Governors

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I wish to announce the establishment of the Teachers' TV Board of Governors as an advisory non-departmental public body (ANDPB).

Teachers' TV is a new digital TV channel aimed at people who work in schools. Funded by, but editorially independent of, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the channel will offer direct access to resources, information and training to support head teachers, teachers, governors, teaching assistants and other school staff to deliver education to the highest possible standard.

A third party, education digital, will run the channel on behalf of DfES. They will have direct responsibility for commissioning programming, scheduling and transmission—in short, all aspects of the channel's daily operations.

In order to ensure the channel is independent of Government, as required by the 2003 Communications Act, yet remains accountable for the public money it receives, a governance structure has been developed. This structure will be overseen by the Teachers' TV Board of Governors who will be responsible for ensuring DfES's educational outcomes are effectively translated into targets for Teachers' TV programming. The supplier's performance-related bonus will be dependent on them successfully meeting these targets.

The Board of Governors has been established as an advisory non-departmental public body and it will act as a high-powered advisory authority that will inform DfES decisions regarding Teachers' TV. The board will produce an annual report for presentation to the Department which will also be published. It will outline the advice that the board has given DfES over the course of the year, the targets the supplier was set, the board's assessment of the supplier's performance over the previous year and the bonus that was recommended to the Department. Other matters, at the board's discretion, may also be covered in the report—for example the effectiveness of the regulatory framework in upholding the channel's editorial independence.

Teachers' TV will launch in February 2005 and will be on-air 24 hours per day via a number of distribution outlets including digital satellite, digital cable and digital terrestrial TV. An associated Teachers' TV website will provide a broadband version of programmes and downloadable resources, an interactive TV facility will be developed by autumn 2005.

I believe the work of the Teachers' TV Board of Governors will be invaluable in ensuring Teachers' TV delivers the maximum benefit to people who work in schools through supporting them to get the best out of themselves and their pupils.


NHS Foundation Trusts

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): The chairman of Monitor (whose statutory name is the independent regulator of NHS
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foundation trusts) announced on 4 January 2005 that, in accordance with section six of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, Monitor authorised the following NHS trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 January 2005, as part of its first group in wave 1A:

Monitor also authorised Gateshead health NHS trust as an NHS foundation trust from 5 January 2005.

Monitor has deferred consideration of the applications from two trusts:

Further decisions on both trusts may be made at a later date by Monitor.

Two applicants withdrew their applications in order to undertake further preparation and with the intention of re-applying at a later stage:

A copy of Monitor's press notice was placed in the Library.

Monitor's announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 25. Monitor is considering a second group of 10 applicants in wave 1A for authorisation from 1 April 2005.

NHS Dentistry Reforms

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): In my statement on 16 July 2004, Official Report, columns 89–91WS, I set out our plans for rebuilding national health service dentistry to ensure better access to NHS dental care and to improve oral health in England. There have been major developments since then and we have been taking stock of the timetable for further stages of the changes.

In the last six months there have been significant developments on a number of fronts.

In my earlier statement I reported that there were already 1,500 dentists in more than 750 practices working under personal dental services (PDS) pilots. The interest among dentists in moving to these new ways of working has been very considerable. I am now able to report that we have some 3,500 dentists in 1,300 dental practices working under PDS arrangements. Furthermore there are some 500 practices with applications in the pipeline. When those applications have been approved there will be some 20 per cent. of practices in PDS and the number of dentists seeking to move to the new arrangements is growing daily.

In November we received a report from the National Audit Office in which they acknowledged that

However, they also identified risks to the successful implementation of our reforms. The NAO were particularly concerned that primary care trusts should have time to acquire the necessary skills and resources before the full commissioning of NHS dentistry was delegated to them. We are preparing guidance and
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additional support for PCTs. Nevertheless we recognise that this is a major new responsibility and PCTs need to be well prepared for it.

We have made very good progress towards recruiting 1,000 whole time equivalent dentists to address access issues. The first batch of dentists from Poland have arrived in England and, following induction, will be starting work during January in the south-west, Cumbria and West Midland. Further tranches of Polish dentists will be starting at regular intervals between now and October. We have also begun recruitment activity in other European countries, including Spain and Germany. On the domestic front the NHS locally has been recruiting dentists and the "Keeping in Touch" scheme has supported dentists back to practice after a career break.

We have addressed the backlog of people waiting to take the international qualifying exam which enables dentists from non-EU countries to practise in England. The numbers of candidates passing this Exam in 2004 was 199 compared with 81 in 2003. The Department of Health in conjunction with the General Dental Council and the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) has arranged a sitting of IQE Part A in India at the end of February for dentists who wish to work in England.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence issued guidance in October 2004 on recall intervals. It recommended that patients should be recalled on the basis of clinical need with intervals varying from 3–18 months. These intervals will move away from the current practice of many dentists who recall patients every six months.

The system reform which we will be undertaking is a complex one where we have to ensure that the component parts interconnect effectively. As the NAO report indicated we have to manage the risks associated with these changes and ensure that their implementation is fully effective. We have been making rapid progress and considering when would be the optimum time to
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make further changes. We have decided to continue implementing some of the changes currently underway. It is important that dentists who want to move to PDS status should be able to do so as quickly as possible. Dentists also need to be able to take account of the NICE guidance in their day-to-day practice. The dental practice board and dental software suppliers also need time to make the necessary changes to information technology systems. Major changes, such as that to patient charges, need to go out for public consultation and be subject to debate in Parliament. In that context, we are considering the recommendations of the NHS dentistry patient charges working group. We also need to take account of the NAO's constructive recommendations about managing risk. For example, strategic health authorities are performance managing primary care trusts in terms of our key objectives—buying-back additional NHS capacity from existing dentists, encouraging further transfers to PDS and matching new recruits (including international ones) to vacancies in the hardest pressed areas. Through this process we can ensure that the changes which are introduced are in the best interests of patients, dentists and the NHS.

For all these reasons, we believe more time is needed to ensure complete system reform and have therefore decided that full implementation will now take place by April 2006. A longer lead-in time will allow many more dentists to move to new ways of working in the meantime, will enable public consultation on key aspects and the parliamentary process to be fully observed and will allow primary care trusts to prepare their new roles.

I can also confirm intention to publish for consultation the new regulations for local commissioning of primary dental services and dental charging in the summer of 2005.

The changes which we have been making to NHS dentistry are proving to be very successful as evidenced by the high level of interest among dentists in moving to new ways of working.