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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what discussions her Department has had with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the extension of the single assessment process to include housing-related support in respect of Extra Care schemes; 
(2) what discussions her Department has had with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the relationship between the requirements of the single assessment and the supporting people quality assessment framework in respect of Extra Care schemes. 
Mr. Byrne: The Department has held early discussions with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister about the possibility of extending the domains of the single assessment process for older people to include housing-related support. In principle, both Departments believe that a single assessment process covering health and social care and housing-related support would be in the interests of individuals who may have a need for support. These discussions are at an early stage.
The Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 provides that an NHS trust may make an application to Monitor, the statutory name of which is the independent regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts, for consideration for authorisation as an NHSFT, if the application is supported by the Secretary of State.
To be considered by the Secretary of State, applicants are required to develop a five-year strategic business plan, show strong leadership and commitment to modernising services, demonstrate the involvement of staff and other key stakeholders for their vision for reform, undertake a public consultation and be subject to an independent due diligence review of their business plan. To be authorised as an NHSFT by Monitor, applicants must meet the criteria laid down in the Health and Social Care Act 2003 and Monitor's own criteria. The criteria reflect the need for an NHSFT to be legally constituted, well governed and financially viable.
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Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many general practitioner referrals have been made using the choose and book system in each month since July 2004; and how many of those referrals were (a) telephone-only bookings and (b) online bookings. 
Mr. Byrne: Prior to April 2005, choose and book was available in only a small number of early adopter sites. The number of general practitioner referrals made using choose and book in each month since April 2005 is shown in the table. In addition to the figures given, a total of 2,328 additional transactions have been made successfully through the choose and book system. This includes re-booked appointments that were made by patients who, for example, chose to change the date and/or time of their appointment.
The breakdown by channel of the appointment bookings is collected only for those primary care trusts (PCTs) associated with the national choose and book appointments line. A number of PCTs run their own local appointments lines for which data is not collected centrally. The Department is currently validating data from the national appointments line and I will write to you with this data once it is available.
Mr. Byrne: It is clear from the recent 'Your Health, Your Care, Your Say' public consultation that patients would prefer general practice to offer extended opening hours. We will set out proposals to respond to that challenge in our forthcoming White Paper and in doing so we will want to work with general practitioners, nurses, the British Medical Association and others. The general practice contract framework includes incentives for improved access and these are being renewed.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she plans to encourage nurse-led practices, mainly staffed by senior nurses with a general practitioner acting in an overseeing capacity; and what steps she will take to secure a good quality of care in such circumstances. 
With the introduction of the new primary medical services arrangements in 2004, primary care trusts now have a range of flexibilities over what services they commission and from whom in order to better meet the needs of patients locally. Common requirements and safeguards apply to all providers of primary care to ensure minimum standards are met and encourage high quality care.
Mr. Byrne: It is the responsibility of primary care trusts (PCTs) to assess and make provision for the healthcare needs of their local communities. PCTs have the resources to commission services and identify the number of professional staff that they need to deliver those services.
A range of recruitment and retention initiatives are in place to help expand the national health service workforce across England. These include improving pay and conditions, encouraging the NHS to become a better, more flexible and diverse employer, help with accessing child care, increasing training, attracting back returners and running national and international recruitment campaigns. More recently, the new primary care development scheme will allow local employers to use funding for innovative approaches to boost recruitment to local primary care services.
As a result of these measures, the primary care workforce has expanded. Between September 1997 and June 2005, the number of general practitioners, excluding retainers and registrars, employed by the NHS has increased by 4,372 (15.6 per cent.) and between September 1997 and September 2004 the primary care nursing workforce has increased by 25,115 (32.5 per cent.).
Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate she has made of the number of public houses in Gravesham constituency likely to be exempt from a smoking ban under the provisions of the Health Bill; 
Caroline Flint: The Health Bill has not been assessed on the basis of its likely impact on the constituency of Gravesham. No estimate has been made of the number of public houses in Gravesham in this context.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the Leader of the House's statement of 17 November 2005, Official Report, column 1118, on
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health services, (a) what the cost is of the 168 more NHS consultants and (b) what proportion of the staff to which she refers work part-time. 
Mr. Byrne: Information as to the annual cost of the additional national health service consultants is not held centrally. However, the information in the table shows the number of Hospital and Community Health Services consultants for each year since 1997 in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Strategic Health Authority.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when her Department last discussed with local hon. Members proposals for future provision of health care services at (a) Royal Liverpool University hospital and (b) Liverpool Women's hospital; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Byrne [holding answer 15 December 2005]: The process of discussing any proposals for the future provisions of health care services at the Royal Liverpool University hospital and the Liverpool Women's hospital with local hon. Members falls within the remit of Cheshire and Merseyside strategic health authority.
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average length of time to make an appointment with a general practitioner was in the Northamptonshire primary care trust area in each year since 1997. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department does not collect the data in the format requested. However, as at September 2005, 100 per cent. of patients in the Northamptonshire and Heartlands primary care trust area were able to be offered an appointment with a general practitioner or primary health care professional within one working day.
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