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Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of (a) the extent to which Glutaraldehyde is used in the cleaning of medical equipment in the NHS, (b) the take-up of alternative sterilising agents and (c) the number of healthcare workers that have health problems as a result of exposure to Glutaraldehyde. 
Jane Kennedy: The Health and Safety Executive further reduced the occupational exposure limit for Glutaraldehyde in December 2001. This led to a number of Glutaraldehyde-based products being withdrawn from the market and to national health service organisations using alternative chemical disinfectants and sterilizing agents.
Information regarding the extent to which Glutaraldehyde is used for the cleaning of medical equipment in the NHS and the take-up of alternative sterilizing agents is not collected centrally. It is the responsibility of each NHS organisation's occupational health department to record any incidents of healthcare workers developing health problems resulting from
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exposure to Glutaraldehyde. Information is not collected centrally by the Department relating to exposure to Glutaraldehyde.
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what work her Department's Green Minister has undertaken in the last three months; and what meetings the Minister has attended in the last 12 months, in that capacity; 
(2) if she will list the meetings at which her Department has been represented regarding the delivery of sustainable development across Government as co-ordinated by the Ministerial Sub-committee of Green Ministers. 
Caroline Flint: Following the General Election in May 2005, the Cabinet Sub-Committee of Green Ministers (ENV(G)) was replaced by the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Sustainable Development in Government (EE(SD)), the members of which are departmental sustainable development Ministers.
The Department has been represented regarding the delivery of sustainable development across Government. Although the Government publishes the title, membership and terms of reference of cabinet committees, it has been the practice of successive governments not to disclose details of their proceedings.
Jane Kennedy: The Department does not hold this information in the format requested. However, the table shows the latest figures for the number of medical staff with a speciality in obstetrics and gynaecology within London government office region (GOR) by strategic health authority (SHA) as at 30 September 2004.
|North central London|
|North east London||Q06||174||167|
|North west London||Q04||252||216|
|South east London||Q07||207||193|
|South west London||Q08||136||125|
It is expected that the NHS in England can contain increased costs by improved training, management and segregation practices. Further guidance is being produced by the Department of Health in conjunction with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to assist waste producers, such as the NHS, to understand the new regulations and to manage and dispose of healthcare waste more effectively.
Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of the merits of mutual recognition of Scottish Medicines Consortium, All Wales Medicines Strategy Group and National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence assessments for the purpose of interim appraisals pending full appraisals; and if she will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) and All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) assessments are not directly comparable with National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence technology appraisals. Primary care trusts are responsible for the managed introduction of new technologies and in doing so, they should take account of the available evidence. This may include material from the SMC and AWMSG where this is available.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of progress by the Health Care Commission (HCC) on dealing with complaints; and what estimate she has made of whether the HCC has adequate resources to deal with the complaints it has received. 
I understand from the chair of the Healthcare Commission that it has received an unprecedented number of requests for independent review in its first year, having received over 8,000 cases compared to 3,500 received for the same period last year, under the previous system. This has initially meant some delays in handling cases. However, the Healthcare Commission has increased its staffing levels and has refined its processes to improve the way it handles second stage national health service complaints. As a
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result of this, the number of complaints resolved each month has increased from 117 in February 2005 to 911 in August 2005 with a total of 4,800 reviews being carried out in the first year.
The Healthcare Commission is working with the health service Ombudsman and the NHS to improve the handling of NHS complaints at local level, through training and support as well as through ratings and assessment work.
Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps her Department has taken to combat health tourism; what assessment she has made of the impact of these measures; and what further measures she plans to introduce. 
Jane Kennedy: The national health service exists primarily for the benefit of people who live here lawfully. Arrangements have been in place since 1982 to charge anyone who is not ordinarily resident here for any NHS hospital treatment received. The current rules are set out in the NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 1989, as amended. The Department conducted a wide-ranging review of the operation of the hospital charging regime during 200203. This identified loopholes and implementation difficulties arising from changes in travel and migration patterns since the 1989 regulations were first introduced. Amendment regulations, to close the loopholes and make the regulations easier to operate, came into force in April 2004. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the hospital charging regime is being operated more effectively since that time. No further changes are currently planned.
For primary medical services, a public consultation was carried out last year on proposals to change the rules on access to general practitioner services in order to clarify them and align them as closely as possible with those for secondary care. We are currently considering the response to the consultation with a view to deciding the best way forward.
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