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NHS Staff Suspensions

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the cost to the National Health Service of suspensions of medical and dental staff in the latest quarter for which figures are available. [205024]

Mr. Hutton: Latest figures to the end of September 2004 show there were a total of 19 suspensions of medical and dental staff and there is a downward trend. The annual cost of these suspensions to the National Health Service is estimated at about £1 million.

NHS Trusts

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which NHS Trusts are taking part in merger talks/proposals. [213211]

Mr. Hutton: Since introducing Shifting the Balance of Power, the Department does not collect information centrally on configuration reviews and there is no obligation on the national health service locally to report on any service change they are considering.

However, any change to trust constitutions that requires an amendment to the Statutory Instrument (Establishment Orders) is sent to the Department for approval by Ministers. The only such change the Department is aware of is the forthcoming merger of mental health trusts in Surrey. In this merger, the Surrey Oaklands NHS Trust, the Surrey Hampshire Borders
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NHS Trust and the North West Surrey Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust are to be dissolved, and a single trust is to be established in their place, to be called the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Trust. This will be established from 1 April this year subject to Parliamentary approval.

Paddington Basin Hospital

Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish in full the outline business case for the Paddington Basin NHS Hospital project. [208893]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 19 January 2005]: Under departmental guidance, national health service trusts are required to make the outline business case (OBC) publicly available no later than one month from its approval.

In this case, the OBC has not yet been approved.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will reply to the question tabled by the hon. Member for Ashford on 16 December 2004, reference 206718. [211748]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I replied to the hon. Member on 1 February 2005, Official Report, column 887W.

Protection of Vulnerable Adults

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what timetable has been set for the extension of the Protection of Vulnerable Adults scheme to all NHS workers; and what plans are in place to ensure that extension is effective. [213295]

Mr. Hutton: Options for extending the protection of vulnerable adults scheme to the national health service are currently under consideration. I will inform the hon. Member of the decision in due course.

Residential Care Costs

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average fee paid by each social services department in England for care for the elderly in a (a) privately owned and (b) local authority-owned residential home was in the latest year for which figures are available. [214074]

Dr. Ladyman: The information requested is not available centrally.

Retinal Screening

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps he (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to ensure that NHS providers have the maximum choice of suppliers of retinal screening; [214170]

(2) whether the list of accredited suppliers to the National Retinopathy Screening Programme will be updated via a tender process during 2004. [214407]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 4 February 2005]: National health service providers have a number of suppliers to choose from when selecting suppliers for their retinal screening programme.
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The NHS Purchasing and Supply agency are in discussions with staff from the National Retinopathy Screening Programme and the National Programme for information technology in order to decide on the benefits of undertaking a tender exercise for software for this programme in the light of the recent developments in this project.

Rural Areas

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what initiatives his Department has introduced since 2001 to support health services in rural areas. [213102]

Mr. Hutton: The Government's modernisation of the national health service, underpinned by a sustained investment programme, is delivering more staff, faster treatment, more hospitals, a new focus on quality and, crucially, more choice for patients. Coupled with an increase in the NHS budget from £43.9 billion in 2000–01 to £69 billion in 2004–05 has come an increased devolution of power and responsibility to the front line NHS: 80 per cent. of the NHS budget in England is now devolved to local primary care trusts (PCTs), and central targets have been dramatically reduced to give the local NHS in rural and urban areas alike the headroom to address local priorities.

The Government have therefore given PCTs in rural areas the resources and the authority to make a difference locally and address rural needs. At the national level the Department is committed to rural proofing policies so that they take into account the needs of people living in rural areas. To further support the rural proofing agenda, last year the Government incorporated the rural proofing checklist within the regulatory impact assessment framework, thus ensuring that new policies are screened for their impact on rural communities.

The Department also supports rural health initiatives through grants to the voluntary sector. The Department has funded the Institute of Rural Health since 2001. The Institute is currently working on two projects (i) the rural health forum project which provides a regular interface between Government Departments and health providers at national, regional and local levels, and (ii)a rural proofing toolkit which will help PCTs and policy makers identify the health needs of residents in rural areas and help incorporate those needs into policy making at a strategic level.

The Department has also taken specific actions to help patients living with stress and mental health problems in rural areas. The National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) in implementing the national suicide prevention strategy is providing specific support for farmers and their families. We are also part funding a network of support for people in rural communities who are suffering from stress.


Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received about his Department's support for Saneline. [208490]

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Ms Winterton: As of 18 January 2005, the Department has received 14 written representations concerning the Department's two-year contract with Saneline which will end on 31 March 2005.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to increase his Department's funding for Saneline in 2005–06; and if he will make a statement. [208492]

Ms Winterton: The Department has provided some £5 million of funding, over three years, for mental health helplines provided by voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations. This funding can be accessed by VCS organisations via the mental health helplines investment framework that has been commissioned to support providers of mental health helplines in developing capacity; enabling 24 hour access, and to increase the quality of service provision through accredited training and accreditation against quality standards.

The investment framework will be launched by the Department next month and applications for funding will be considered by a steering group represented by a range of mental health helpline providers, including Saneline.

In common with other voluntary and community sector organisations, Saneline will be eligible to submit an application for funding from the Department's section 64 scheme of grants for 2005–06.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the contribution of Saneline to the provision of support and advice to mentally ill people and their families; what assessment he has made of the impact of any reduction in Saneline's activities as a result of funding shortfall; and if he will make a statement. [208493]

Ms Winterton: Saneline provides information, advice and emotional support for people with mental health problems and responds to around 50,000 callers per year. Saneline operates a virtual network with calls routed to whichever site has capacity. At present, Saneline is operating two of its three centres without a reduction in capacity. Saneline refers many of its callers to a range of other helpline providers who, jointly, take a significant number of mental health calls.

There are around 60 other mental health helpline providers within the voluntary and community sector that provide an excellent service and, between them, handle significant number of calls on mental health issues. Of these, Samaritans receive in excess of 4.8 million contacts a year, of which 2.5 million are by telephone and the majority of these are from people with mental health problems. The organisation Rethink's helplines handle approximately 80,000 calls per year. The majority of these helpline providers, including SANE, Samaritans, Rethink and Mind, are members of the Department's mental health helplines partnership, which aims to achieve greater consistency, quality and choice for people who use members' helpline services.

In the statutory sector, NHS Direct provides a 24hour, seven days a week service and its fully-trained staff respond to about 325,000 calls per year from
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people with mental health issues. NHS Direct works in close partnership with the member organisations of the mental health helplines partnership, including Saneline.

The Department's contract with Saneline was for two years and it ends on 31 March 2005. The total contract value was £2 million. Part of the contract payment was delayed during discussions on contractual detail with Saneline and when invoices were delayed as a result. Noformal assessment of the impact of any potential reduction in Saneline's activities has been made. Saneline, like other voluntary and community sector organisations in health and social care, can apply for further funding.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact of Saneline's planned closure of its Macclesfield office on the well-being of mentally ill people and their families seeking support and advice in the area for which it provides coverage. [208494]

Ms Winterton: No formal assessment of the impact of any potential reduction in Saneline's activities has been made. However, we are aware that Saneline operates a virtual network and calls are routed to whichever one of its centres has capacity. This means that although Saneline is currently operating only two of three centres, callers from Macclesfield can continue to access the service.

In addition to the services offered by Saneline, there is also a diverse range of mental health helplines provided by the statutory and voluntary and community sectors, including NHS Direct, which provide easily accessible services for people with mental health problems, their carers and families—including people in the Macclesfield area who are seeking support and advice.

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