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5 Oct 2005 : Column 2860W—continued

MRI Scans

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the oral answer of 12 July 2005, Official Report, column 685, on MRI scans, what the evidential basis is for her statement that University Hospital of North Durham will need to use its capacity to the full well before 2008. [14430]

Mr. Byrne: By 2007–08, we plan to deliver an unparalleled expansion in most diagnostic services to reduce waiting time for patients further. Most of this expansion will be delivered through increasing investment and productivity in the national health service, using the record levels of NHS funding for the next three years and making the best use of existing equipment and facilities. These plans are based on understanding and meeting local needs for diagnostic services, which have been developed through working closely with local health communities to understand their needs for extra capacity. While the independent sector has a key part to play, NHS providers of diagnostics services also need to ensure that they are using their diagnostic capacity to the full.

Multiple Sclerosis

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) parliamentary questions have been tabled and (b) letters she has received from hon. Members on the use of Aimspro for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in this Parliament. [9283]

Jane Kennedy: In the current parliamentary session, the only questions tabled are those from the hon. Gentleman himself.

An estimated 40 letters have been received by Members in this Parliament.
5 Oct 2005 : Column 2861W

NHS (IT System Compatibility)

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to ensure that IT systems in the NHS in England holding information on Welsh patients are compatible with IT systems being developed for the NHS in Wales. [14241]

Mr. Byrne: The definition of information technology standards and systems for the national health service in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly. However, we recognise the importance of close co-operation and liaison between the four home countries to ensure alignment of their respective strategies and eventual interoperability of systems. This is achieved through dialogue at working level between officials from both Administrations. Standards for NHS IT systems in England are mandated by the NHS Information Standards Board, on which NHS Wales, along with the other home countries, is represented.
5 Oct 2005 : Column 2862W

NHS Direct

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the average monthly running costs of NHS Direct were in each year since its inception; and if she will make a statement; [2884]

(2) how many cases have been dealt with by NHS Direct; how many calls have been abandoned; how many call centres are operational; where each centre is located; what the running costs of each call centre were in each year since its inception; and if she will make a statement. [2932]

Mr. Byrne: NHS Direct has handled over 29 million patient episodes since the service was launched in March 1998. NHS Direct has an abandonment of calls rate of approximately 10 per cent.

22 NHS Direct sites are operational. The funding allocations for each of the 22 sites and their locations are shown in the following table.

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire2,447,0003,209,0003,154,0003,580,0003,731,000
East Midlands292,0003,245,0004,187,0005,305,0005,606,0006,327,000
East Yorkshire198,0001,691,0002,025,0003,423,0003,580,0003,759,000
Hampshire and Isle of Wight749,0002,558,0003,228,0004,067,0004,384,0005,023,000
Kent Surrey Sussex1,561,0004,675,0004,612,0005,560,0004,783,000
Midland Shires1,698,0003,414,0004,073,0003,977,000
N C London1,218,0002,949,0003,121,0803,105,000
N E London960,0002,349,0002,370,0002,067,000
North East317,0003,846,0004,851,0004,520,0004,693,0004,849,000
S E London404,0001,918,0002,328,0003,248,0003,316,0003,480,000
S W London2,000,0002,217,0002,660,0002,620,0002,691,000
South Yorkshire and South Humber1,565,0002,788,0003,080,0003,150,0003,276,000
Thames Valley and Northants909,0001,972,0003,473,0003,740,0004,028,0004,178,000
W London477,0002,380,0004,086,0004,139,0004,196,0003,892,000
West Country1,190,0005,040,0004,182,0004,343,0004,720,0004,955,000
West Midlands941,0002,194,0003,546,0003,710,0004,041,0004,238,000
West Yorkshire1,142,0003,462,0004,418,0004,600,0004,949,0005,196,000

Department of Health.

The average monthly funding allocations to NHS Direct since its inception are shown in the following table.
£ million

Average monthly funding allocations

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average call-back time for NHS Direct was in each month since the service was founded. [6290]

Mr. Byrne: Calls requiring an emergency service are directly transferred to the ambulance service. Calls of an urgent nature are transferred to the next available nurse for clinical assessment. 97 per cent. of all urgent calls start clinical assessment with call-back from a nurse within 20 minutes, in line with the national out-of-hours quality requirements.

I understand from the chair of NHS Direct that average call-back time for all calls to NHS Direct is not available for all months since the service began. However, the average time between patients contacting NHS Direct and starting clinical assessment with a NHS Direct nurse since April 2005 is shown in the following table.
5 Oct 2005 : Column 2863W

Average time to start clinical assessment in minutes
April 200530.5
May 200530.7
June 200529.4
July 200529.2

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many calls have been made to NHS Direct in each month since May 2004. [8682]

Mr. Byrne: I understand from the chair of NHS Direct that the number of calls answered by NHS Direct each month since May 2004 are as shown in the table.
MonthTotal calls answered
May 2004554,454
June 2004497,347
July 2004526,320
August 2004530,191
September 2004493,979
October 2004536,500
November 2004536,052
December 2004615,693
January 2005619,178
February 2005519,160
March 2005612,743
April 2005558,860
May 2005593,367

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to improve patient access to NHS Direct; what assessment she has made of the average number of calls a patient must make to be successfully connected to an NHS Direct operator; and if she will make a statement on the integration of NHS Direct with the GP out-of-hours service. [12611]

Mr. Byrne: NHS Direct now provides multi-media access to healthcare. I understand from the Chairman of NHS Direct that the number of calls to NHS Direct has increased from 110,000 in 1998–99 to over 29 million by 2004–05. In addition, there are now more than one million visitors each month to the online service. The NHS Direct self help guide is also available to 19 million households through the Thomson local directory. NHS Direct also provides access to healthcare through digital television and this will be extended to include cable and freeview throughout this year.

Patients speak to an NHS Direct operator as soon as they are connected to NHS Direct. However, in June 2005, 10 per cent. of calls made to NHS Direct were not connected to NHS Direct as the caller abandoned the call. There are no data available to assess the reasons for abandonment or how many patients subsequently call again.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) may choose to commission NHS Direct to provide general practice out-of hours call handling or nurse assessment. NHS Direct is currently involved in 45 out-of hours clinical integration schemes involving 99 PCTs across the country.
5 Oct 2005 : Column 2864W

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many complaints were received regarding the service provided by NHS Direct in the last year for which figures are available, broken down by type. [14356]

Mr. Byrne: I understand from the chair of NHS Direct that, during the year April 2004 to March 2005, NHS Direct answered 6,584,000 calls. From these calls, NHS Direct received 1,469 complaints. Of these complaints, 1,128 were able to be resolved locally and 341 required further escalation.

Following investigation, 153 of the complaints were upheld. This represents approximately 0.002 per cent. of the total calls answered.

Information regarding the type of complaint is not centrally available.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what performance indices are used to assess NHS Direct; and what estimate she has made of the average length of time between a person first calling NHS Direct and an operator calling them back in the most recent period for which figures are available. [14974]

Mr. Byrne: NHS Direct is assessed against the "National Quality Requirements in the Delivery of Out-of-Hours Services", in relation to telephone and clinical assessment, which was published by the Department in October 2004 and is available on the Department's website at:

The average call back time for calls to NHS Direct over the last six months was 32 minutes from the time of receipt of the patient's call.

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