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9 Feb 2005 : Column 1619W—continued

Hospital Chaplaincy

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding has been made available for the hospital chaplaincy service for the Sikh faith. [213890]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department has undertaken a review of central funding of hospital chaplaincy services informed by extensive consultation with all major faith groups. The review makes a number of recommendations to more equitably provide for the religious and spiritual needs of patients while in hospital. £170,000 is available, which includes funding for the Sikh faith. The Department will publish an action plan shortly.

Infertility Treatment

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether he expects one cycle of IVF to be available on the NHS to those who meet the clinical criteria by April in (a) Gloucestershire and (b) England and Wales; [213498]

(2) if he will make a statement on the availability of IVF in Gloucestershire. [213499]

Miss Melanie Johnson: We have advised that we will be looking to primary care trusts (PCTs) which provide no in-vitro fertilisation (IVF ) treatment to meet a minimum national level of provision of one cycle of IVF by April 2005. In the longer term, we expect the national health service to make progress to full implementation of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence's (NICE) clinical guideline on the assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems. We have said that the priority is to help those in greatest need, which must mean couples who have no children living with them.

We understand that at present the PCTs in Gloucestershire provide IVF in individual cases on exceptional grounds, but that from 1 April 2005 they plan to offer one cycle to those who meet the criteria in the NICE guideline.


Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the expenditure of the (a) Social Services Inspectorate and (b) Commission for Social Care Inspection was in each year since its establishment; and what the estimated budget for the next financial year is in each case. [211949]

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Dr. Ladyman: Expenditure on the administrative costs of the Social Services Inspectorate since 1997–98 is shown in the table. Earlier figures are not readily available.

The Social Services Inspectorate was part of the Department and was abolished on 1 April 2004, when its functions transferred to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) along with the social care regulatory functions of the former National Care Standards Commission.

The CSCI's expenditure in 2004–05 is estimated to be some £149.6 million. Its budget for 2005–06 has not yet been determined.
Total expenditure (£000)

Milk Tokens

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many eligible households (a) had and (b) had not had their milk tokens issued to them by the last day of each month for which his Department has had responsibility; [211350]

(2) what steps he has taken to satisfy himself that those eligible for milk tokens have (a) received a satisfactory service and (b) had access to an effective information system; and if he will make a statement; [211351]

(3) what assessment he has made of the (a) cost, (b) effectiveness and (c) management of the Milk Token Hotline; and if he will make a statement; [211352]

(4) for what reasons the Milk Token Hotline ran a message on 22 January advising callers that the Department would not be able to inform them whether they had been instructed to send them more milk tokens until Monday 13 December 2004; if he will arrange for the hotline message to be updated at weekly intervals; what the new target date is for hotline callers to be given accurate information on (a) their eligibility for and (b) the dispatch of milk tokens; and if he will make a statement. [211371]
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(5) pursuant to his answer of 10 January 2005, Official Report, columns 104–5W, on the Milk Token Hotline, how many calls have been received by the Milk Token Hotline in each week since its commencement; how many callers stayed on the line to seek further assistance; what further assistance was made available to callers between 13 December 2004 and 22 January; and if he will make a statement; [211353]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answers 3 February 2005]: The token distribution unit (TDU) has been responsible for distributing milk tokens to beneficiaries in receipt of child tax credit since April 2003, and for beneficiaries receiving income support or income based jobseekers allowance since November 2004. The TDU is authorised to send milk tokens to qualifying claimants every four weeks based on information about beneficiaries received from the Inland Revenue and the Department of Work and Pensions. The number of tokens issued in each of the four mail outs since November 2004 is shown in the following table.
exchange dates
Tokens issued
to children
Tokens issued to pregnant women
1 November 2004 to 28 November 2004653,83529,640
29 November 2004 to 26 December 2004698,65828,915
27 December 2004 to 23 January 2005714,92028,078
24 January 2005 to 24 February 2005708,92027,265

Milk tokens are distributed to eligible households the week before expiry date of the previous four-weekly mail out. This ensures that claimants always receive thetokens before the first Monday of week one of the four-week cycle. Claimants who notify non-receipt of tokens are offered the option to have tokens re-issued or to be sent to a new address if they have recently moved.

Claimants can request information about milk tokens by phone, letter or e-mail and all the contact details are on the letter they receive with the milk tokens. The helpline is supported by trained operators from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Friday. An out-of-hours message also provides a number of options to provide claimants with guidance.

The helpline offers claimants a number of message options for milk token guidance. This has consistently provided the relevant guidance for 70 per cent. of callers since it was established in April 2003. The remaining 30 per cent. select the option to speak to a trained operator. The combination of automated message and operator option provides a cost-effective solution as well as giving beneficiaries immediate access to answers to frequently asked questions.

Since April 2003, the helpline received 385,387 calls. Of these 102,618 claimants selected the option to speak to an operator. Between 13 December 2004 and 22 January 2005, the helpline received 61,216 calls and 18,407 claimants selected the option to speak to an operator.
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Since the TDU assumed responsibility for the distribution of milk tokens to income support and jobseekers allowance there has been a large rise in the volume of calls. To help manage this increase, the TDU has installed a new system and has increased the number of trained helpline staff.

The front-end out-of-hours message provides claimants with details of the date on which the TDU will receive the latest set of instructions from the Inland Revenue and Department of Work and Pensions, as well as the date on which they should expect to receive their next set of milk tokens. This message is changed every four weeks. The message about the previous token mail out is kept on the system for two weeks so that claimants who have not received tokens know that they should ask for their tokens to be reissued.

Although the helpline was originally designed for inbound calls only helpline staff have, since November 2004 when the TDU took over responsibility for distribution of tokens to income support and income based jobseeker allowance beneficiaries, been increasingly making outbound calls in order to contact local benefit offices on behalf of claimants to help resolve milk token entitlement queries.

The incorrect message on 22 January, giving guidance about tokens until 13 December, was due to a systems error and this has now been corrected. Daily checks are now made by the TDU to ensure that all messages provide the claimant with current information.

Mobile Diagnostic Centres

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether his Department has received requests from his counterparts in (a) the National Assembly for Wales and (b) the Scottish Parliament to discuss the use of NHS mobile diagnostic treatment centres. [212218]

Mr. Hutton: 14 mobile treatment centres are run on behalf of the national health service by the independent sector. Two deliver cataract operations and 12 deliver magnetic resonance imaging scans. No direct requests have been received from the National Assembly for Wales or the Scottish Executive to use these facilities.

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