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NHS Charges

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the effect the introduction of charges for (a) eye tests and (b) dental check-ups had on demand for these services. [210365]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 24 January 2005]: In 1989, charges were introduced for dental examinations and eligibility for national health service sight tests was restricted to children, people suffering from or predisposed to eye disease and people on low incomes. Over the period 1988 to 1990, the number of dental examinations in England fell from 20 million to 19 million per annum and the number of NHS sight tests from 12 million to 5 million per annum. Following our decision in 1999 to restore eligibility for free NHS sight tests to people aged 60, nearly 10 million NHS sight tests are now carried out annually in England.

Orthodontists (North-east)

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients were awaiting treatment by a consultant orthodontist on the latest date for which figures are available; and what the average time taken to obtain treatment once placed on the waiting list was in (a) Sunderland Royal hospital, (b) Durham university hospital and (c) Hartlepool university hospital in the last year for which figures are available. [210139]

Miss Melanie Johnson: At the end of October 2004, there were no patients waiting for treatment by a consultant orthodontist at either Durham university hospital or Hartlepool university hospital.

With regard to your inquiry relating to Sunderland Royal hospital, this is a matter for the chair of City Hospitals Sunderland National Health Service Foundation Trust. My right hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Health (Mr. Hutton), has written to Mr. David Graham, chair, informing him of your inquiry.

Out-of-hours Services

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answers of 20 January 2005, Official Report, column 1119W, on out-of-hours
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services, what assessment he has made of the reasons for the decision of the North Yorkshire Emergency Doctors co-operative to go into administration. [213579]

Miss Melanie Johnson: North Yorkshire Emergency Doctors (NYED) co-operative was taken into voluntary administration due to financial difficulties. The primary care trusts that contracted out of hours general practitioner services from NYED have now put in place alternative arrangements that will meet the national quality requirements. The service to patients has been maintained at all times.

Passive Smoking

Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have died in each of the last five years whose death was partly or wholly attributable to passive smoking. [215168]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The 2004 report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH), which was published alongside the White Paper Choosing Health", states that new evidence reinforces and strengthens the conclusion of the 1998 report from SCOTH which estimated that there are several hundred deaths a year due to lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke.

The Committee did not estimate the number of deaths due to other causes linked to second-hand smoke, such as heart disease or sudden infant death syndrome, or the number of deaths in the workplace. Copies are available in the Library.

Prescription Charges

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the scheme for exemption from prescription charges for people with chronic diseases was established; and in which years since its establishment it has been re-examined. [209797]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The list has since been reviewed on a number of occasions, most recently 1998 as part of the Government's comprehensive spending review.

Public Houses

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information he has obtained from local authorities on the (a) number and (b) proportion of pubs that do not serve prepared food. [210257]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 24 January 2005]: In 2004 information on pubs serving and preparing food was obtained by the Food Standards Agency from a survey of local authorities carried out by the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS).

This survey was carried out by LACORS via their food liaison group network with the objective of making an overall estimate of the proportion (percentage) of pubs that prepare and sell food (more than snacks such as crisps).

Residential Care Costs

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the annual increase in fees for residential care for
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residents in properties (a) owned or run by Kent county council and (b) in Kent run by Southern Cross Healthcare was between 2003–04 and 2004–05. [214809]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 7 February 2005]: The Department does not hold records of the increase in care home fees charged by local authorities (LAs). We expect this information to be held by individual LAs.


Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what efforts his Department has made to raise awareness of the salt content in processed food. [213115]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Together with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), I have been leading discussions with industry to identify and implement a range of proposals to increase opportunities for people to make healthy choices in what they eat. As outlined in the recent White Paper, Choosing Health", these are aimed at increasing the availability of healthier food including reducing the levels of salt, added sugars and saturated fat in prepared and processed food and drink.

At a stakeholder event on salt in November 2003, Icalled for industry to submit plans to reduce salt in processed food. To date discussions have been held with, and commitments received to reduce salt from over 60 organisations.

The FSA launched a high profile public health campaign in September 2004 to raise awareness of health issues surrounding high salt intakes. Initial evaluation of the campaign shows it has had a very positive impact; and research has shown an increase in consumers who are making an effort to cut how much salt they eat and change their shopping behaviour. The next stage of the campaign is currently being considered. The FSA also publishes regular surveys of the salt content of processed foods, which have included soup, pizza, sausages, and baked beans and pasta in tomato sauce.

Smoking-related Diseases

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the procedures adopted by the NHS in determining whether a patient is suffering from a smoking-related disease. [214061]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 4 February 2005]: There are no general procedures adopted by the national health service in determining whether a patient is suffering from a smoking related disease. However, it is standard medical practice to ask patients about their smoking history.

Social Workers

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average number of social worker vacancies was in each of the last five years, broken down by local authority; and how many were posts dealing with children in each case. [213916]

Dr. Ladyman: The Department refers to data collected annually by the Local Government Employers Organisation through the social services workforce survey which suggests that national vacancy rates for
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England have remained around 10/11 per cent. for social workers since 2001, when data became available in this form.

Trans Fats

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the health effects of partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) in the food supply; and if he will make a statement. [210427]

Miss Melanie Johnson: Recent research has been carried out by the European Food Safety Authority on the presence, consumption and the health effects of trans-unsaturated fatty acids (TFAs) in foods. It concluded that, given current dietary intake of TFAs in many countries including the United Kingdom, their potential to significantly increase heart disease risk is much lower than that of saturated fats.

Dietary surveys of the UK population show intakes of TFAs are below the agreed dietary recommendations, whereas intakes for saturated fats exceed them.

The Government continue to monitor developments in the evidence base, which might influence their future advice on the issue. The Government consider reducing saturated fat consumption to be of greater significance for public health.

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