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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the timetable is for (a) negotiating and (b) concluding the general practitioner contract, including the time when a draft contract was made available to the general practitioner representatives. 
Mr. Hutton: Negotiations on a new general medical services (GMS) contract began in October 2001 and concluded in February 2003 with the agreement of the profession to proceed with implementation. Phased implementation began from April 2003 and the standard GMS contract, that was to be entered into by primary care trusts and GMS providers from 1 April 2004, was first shared with lawyers of general practitioner representatives in October 2003.
Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) NHS dentists and (b) general practitioners were practising in the West Suffolk parliamentary constituency at 31 December (i) 2004 and (ii) 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Ladyman: The data for national health service dentists and general practitioners practicing in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire strategic health authority area and within Suffolk West primary care trust (PCT) area are shown in the two tables.
The data shown is for the number of GPs as at 30 June 2004, which is the latest data available, the December census has not yet been published. The data for GPs within the Suffolk West PCT area is from 2001 as this is the earliest data available.
|General medical practitioners (excluding retainers, registrars and locums)(53)|
|Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire||1,263||1,302||1,477|
|Suffolk West PCT||n/a||124||159|
|General Dental Practitioners(54)|
|Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire||754||901||1,025|
|Suffolk West PCT||75||98||110|
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will establish infection control training as a mandatory core competency in undergraduate training for (a) nurses and (b) doctors. 
Mr. Hutton: Curriculum content for undergraduate education and training for health care professionals is determined by higher education institutions (HEIs) in the light of recommendations of the relevant regulatory bodies. However, we share a commitment with those regulatory bodies that all health professionals are trained so that they have the skills and knowledge to deliver a high quality health service to all groups of the population with whom they deal, including infection control. HEIs are autonomous bodies and Ministers are precluded by legislation from intervening in their internal affairs, including curriculum content.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reason delays have occurred in appointing case managers to review health service complaints referred to the Healthcare Commission; how many such cases are outstanding; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 29 November 2004]: The Healthcare Commission took on its role in handling the independent review stage of the national health service complaints process at the end of July 2004. I understand from the chairman of the commission that since then it has received significantly more requests for independent review than planned for. The commission is therefore increasing its capacity to deal with the increased level of referrals. I understand that there are currently some 2,600 cases outstanding.
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding primary care trusts plan to devote to prison populations for the treatment of hepatitis C. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: This information is not held centrally.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recommendations (a) his Department and (b) the
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National Patient Safety Agency has made to the NHS on hand infection control against the spread of norovirus. 
Miss Melanie Johnson: Maintaining a high standard of hand hygiene is one of the key points in the guidelines produced on the Management of hospital outbreaks of gastroenteritis" by the Public Health Laboratory Service, which is now part of the Health Protection Agency. These guidelines were published in the Journal of Hospital Infection" in 2000. In February 2003, following high levels of norovirus activity, the Department reminded medical directors of national health service trusts about the guidelines.
The cleanyourhands" campaign, developed by the National Patient Safety Agency, will help improve hand hygiene and hence will contribute to reducing the spread of gastroenteritis infections.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff in his Department have (a) received official warnings and (b) faced disciplinary procedures following breaches of IT policy in each year since 1997. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The following table provides information held by the Department's security unit from 19982004, which sets out the number of cases where disciplinary action was taken due to computer misuse within the whole of the Department. Information on official warnings is not available.
The Department takes very seriously any misuse of its information technology (IT) systems. All staff are regularly reminded of the Department's misuse of IT
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with detailed guidance contained in the document Acceptable Use of Information Technology" available on the Department's intranet.
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many midwife-led maternity units have closed since 1997; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) how many maternity units have (a) opened and (b) closed since 1997. 
Dr. Ladyman: Decisions about patterns of service delivery are a matter for individual health authorities and trusts to determine locally, taking into account local population needs, priorities and resources. We do not therefore collect information on this centrally.
However, the Government, in the maternity standard of the national service framework (NSF) for children, young people and maternity, published in September 2004, has set out its 10-year vision for maternity services. The standard advocates that national health service maternity care providers and primary care trusts, which will be at the centre of service delivery, should plan and provide maternity services based upon an up-to-date assessment of the needs of the local population and by involving service user groups.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many registered midwives there were in each year since 1996 by (a) headcount and (b) whole-time equivalent. 
Mr. Hutton: The Nursing and Midwifery Council holds information on the number of registered midwives. This information can be found at www.nmc-uk.org.
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