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Public Health (Control of Disease) Act

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding was allocated to local authorities to meet their responsibilities under section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 in relation to funeral provision in each of the past five years; and how much was spent by each local authority in England on section 46 funeral provision in each year. [35358]

Mr. Woolas: I have been asked to reply.

The information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Public Interest Reports

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the NHS bodies that have been issued with public interest reports in each year since 2001; and if she will make a statement. [29971]

Mr. Byrne [holding answer 21 November 2005]: Public interest reports are made, by the auditors of national health service bodies, under section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998. Since 2001, they have been made in respect of the following NHS bodies. They are listed by year of publication.

During 2004–05, the Audit Commission developed, consulted on and revised guidance to auditors—which is published on their website—about how they should report their concerns about financial standing, initially to the boards of NHS bodies, but ultimately escalating to use of their special powers to report publicly and refer bodies to the Secretary of State. This revised guidance has prompted auditors to issue significantly more public interest reports.





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2005 (to date)

Rehabilitation Services (Visually Impaired People)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1)what advice she provides to (a) primary care trusts and (b) acute trusts on the provision of rehabilitation services for the visually impaired, with particular reference to the recently diagnosed; and how many rehabilitation staff for visually impaired people are employed by each (i) primary care trust and (ii) acute trust; [37840]

(2) if she will provide funding for training centres run by Guide Dogs for the Blind. [37841]

Mr. Byrne: It is for local authorities to determine how best to provide services to meet the needs of individuals in their populations, in the light of local priorities. This includes the assessment and provision of appropriate support and rehabilitation services for blind and partially sighted people and decisions on the number of staff necessary.

The Association of Directors of Social Services published national standards of social care for visually impaired adults in October 2002. The Department funded the improving lives coalition, from 2003 to 2005, to help them to raise awareness and to publicise the standards. The final report is available at:

The Department no longer directly commissions services or training facilities.

Residential Care

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 7 November 2005, Official Report, column 273W, on residential care, on what legal basis local authorities can set cash limits on the amount they will pay for residential placements to meet assessed needs. [34712]

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Mr. Byrne: The Department allocates funding to local authorities (LAs) to enable them to carry out their social service functions. It is for LAs to decide how they spend this money, taking account of the need to balance their overall budgets and meet their statutory obligations.

Under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, the Secretary of State may issue guidance to local authorities on how they carry out their social services functions and LAs are required to act in accordance with such guidance, unless they have good reason for departing from it but without freedom to take a substantially different course. The latest guidance is contained in local authority circular LAC(2004)20, which is available in the Library.

Under that guidance, LAs should set the amount they would usually expect to pay for accommodation having regard to assessed care needs-the 'usual cost'. This cost should be set by LAs at the start of a financial or other planning period, or in response to significant changes in the cost of providing care, to be sufficient to meet the assessed care needs of supported residents in residential accommodation. LAs should set more than one usual cost where the cost of providing residential accommodation to specific groups is different. When placing people in residential care, councils are not required to pay more than they would usually pay, having regard to the usual cost.

Scanning Services (Alliance Medical Ltd.)

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether concerns about Alliance Medical and the provision of scanning services were raised at the meeting between her Department and County Durham and Tees Valley strategic in early June. [19088]

Mr. Byrne [holding answer 18 October 2005]: The operational performance and take-up rates of the Alliance Medical contract were discussed with strategic health authority representatives as part of the contract management arrangements.

Screening Services

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she expects to receive advice from the National Committee on Screening on the screening of older men for abdominal aortic aneurysms. [36716]

Mr. Byrne: The UK National Screening Committee considered screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms at its meeting on 29 November 2005 and will provide advice in the new year.


Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reasons the Health Bill proposes to ban smoking in public houses which serve food where the owners do not employ any staff. [34585]

Caroline Flint: The smoke-free provisions of the Health Bill will protect the health of the public from the harm done by second-hand smoke. Under these provisions 99 per cent. of people's enclosed workplaces will become smoke-free.
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The extensive public consultation that we conducted before publishing the Choosing Health White Paper demonstrated enormous support for a ban on smoking in restaurants and pubs where meals are served. People clearly want to be able to enjoy their meal without smoke over their food and in their face.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what diseases and conditions are associated with (a) smoking and (b) passive smoking; and if she will make a statement; [36180]

(2) if she will list the studies undertaken by her Department which demonstrate the diseases and conditions caused by (a) smoking and (b) passive smoking; and if she will place such studies in the Library. [36181]

Caroline Flint: The White Paper Smoking Kills" sets out in Chapter 1 some of the major fatal diseases and conditions caused by smoking and passive smoking. For each disease and cause of death quoted there is a reference to relevant studies and/or source documents.

The 1998 Report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) provided fuller information on fatal and other disease caused by smoking and second hand smoke.

The 2004 Report by SCOTH states that new evidence reinforces and strengthens the conclusion in the 1998 report that second hand smoke is a substantial public health hazard. Copies of these documents are available in the Library.

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are being taken to discourage the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women; and what progress has been made. [34877]

Caroline Flint: The Department's advice can be found in the leaflet Drinking for Two?" and in the Pregnancy Book", copies of which have been placed in the Library, and also on the Department's website at: CareTopics/AlcoholMisuse/AlcoholMisuseGeneral Information/AlcoholMisuseGeneralArticle/fs/en? CONTENT_ID=4062199&chk=J782BY The advice says women who may be pregnant should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should avoid being intoxicated. This guidance is based on advice form medical experts to the sensible drinking working group who reviewed a range of studies and found little evidence of harm when such low levels of alcohol are consumed.

Information is also available from the charity Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Aware UK.

However, we know that some people have raised concerns that consuming any alcohol during pregnancy is unsafe. It is vital that public health messages are based on sound evidence and retain the credibility and confidence of health professionals.

That is why we have commissioned a research scoping exercise on the effects of alcohol on the developing foetus. This will look at existing and new evidence of the effects of very low levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on the developing embryo, foetus and child. The report is due in the new year.
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