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Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what aspects of local health service provision she expects to be affected by attempts to minimise the 200506 financial deficit in the (a) Northamptonshire Heartlands primary care trust and (b) Kettering general hospital NHS trust. 
Ms Rosie Winterton:
Strategic health authorities (SHAs) are responsible for the overall financial management of national health service organisations in their localities and to ensure that they can achieve financial balance. It is for primary care trust (PCTs) in partnership with SHAs and local stakeholders to determine how to use the funds allocated to them to plan, develop and modernise health services for their local populations.
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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 7 November 2005, Official Report, column 4WS, on NHS financial management, if she will list the new approaches to healthcare and healthcare services being undertaken by NHS foundation trusts; whether such approaches are also being taken by other trusts; and in what ways the latter are not able to innovate in the same way as foundation trusts. 
Mr. Byrne: While national health service foundation trusts (NHSFTs) are fledgling organisations working in a new environment with new freedoms, case studies being presented by the foundation trust network give details about how NHSFTs are demonstrating innovative thinking and new ways of working while using their capital freedoms to invest in the delivery and expansion of new services and improving accountability to their local populations. While NHS trusts can innovate new approaches to patient care in much the same way as NHSFTs can, we know that freedoms conferred by foundation status are allowing NHSFTs to do this more quickly and efficiently. The report into NHSFTs published by the Healthcare Commission, the statutory name of which is the Commission for Healthcare audit and inspection in the summer also confirmed that NHSFTs were making good progress in developing new services.
Mr. Byrne: Mandatory changes arising from the Finance Act 2004 affect public and private pension schemes. The NHS Pensions Agency is currently undertaking changes to information technology (IT) systems in order to meet the mandatory requirements of the Finance Act by 6 April 2006.
The national health service pension scheme review is being led by the NHS Employers Organisation in partnership with NHS Trade Unions and includes representatives from the NHS Pensions Agency and the Department. NHS Employers will make recommendation to Ministers on the future design of the NHS pension scheme. Preserved rights from the current scheme, and potential pension rights in a new scheme will be addressed as part of that process. The review partners expect to conclude negotiations by June 2006 but the implementation of a new scheme is not expected until 2007 at the earliest.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money has been set aside for severance packages consequent on the restructuring of (a) Cheshire and Merseyside Strategic Health
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Authority, (b) Lancashire and Cumbria Strategic Health Authority and (c) all strategic health authorities in England. 
Mr. Byrne: Ministers have given the go-ahead for all 28 strategic health authorities (SHAs) to begin local consultations on boundary changes to SHAs and primary care trusts. Consultations started on 14 December for a period of 14 weeks (until 22 March). No decisions on boundary changes will be taken until these local consultations have been completed and their outcomes considered by Secretary of State. Until any boundary changes are agreed, it is not possible to calculate the cost of any severance packages. There will be no central fund to finance any cost of redundancy and SHAs have been asked to minimise severance costs.
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what criteria will be used to select technologies for referral to (a) the new single technology appraisal system and (b) the existing appraisal system within the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. 
Jane Kennedy: The first tranche of topics for the single technology appraisal (STA) was arrived at in consultation with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). NICE reviewed the topics on its existing technology appraisal programme, considering when they were licensed, the potential impact on length and quality of life and the demand for guidance. The suitability of future topics for the STA process will be assessed in discussion with NICE. The STA process will only be able to appraise single technologies for single indications.
The existing multiple technology appraisal process will sit alongside the new process and will be available for use where an STA is not appropriate, for example where there is a need to look at two or more technologies together, or where the evidence base is particularly complex.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the number of nurses who left nursing employment in the NHS within six months of qualification in each of the last five years. 
The Higher Education Statistics Agency conducted a survey of students who had successfully completed their course at a publicly-funded higher education institution in England between 1 August 2003 and 31 July 2004 and had a response rate of 79.9 percent., amongst pre-registration nursing students (including midwives). Of the 4,874 nursing students counted in the 2005 survey, 4,274 (87.7 percent.) were employed as a nurse on 15 January 2005. 5.8 percent., were employed elsewhere. 5.2 percent., were not in employment.
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Mr. Byrne: We already collect information on the number of staff employed in the national health service through the workforce census. We have no plans to collect additional information in the form requested. Following the shifting the balance of power initiative, we have moved to reduce gradually the number of data collections required from the NHS. Since 1997, the qualified nursing workforce has increased by 78,600.
Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health in what ways the draft document on the obesity care pathway used in the second round of consultations differed from that in the first round; and what assessment she has made of whether the consultation complied with the Cabinet Office code of practice on consultations. 
Caroline Flint: The Department is developing an obesity care pathway as an interim tool to assist the frontline health professionals in managing overweight and/or obese patients, until the availability of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's definitive guidance in 2007. As part of the process of developing this tool, early drafts were shared with some potential users to ascertain their views on how it might best be applied.
A consultation on the content is currently underway on the obesity care pathway and related documents, and a draft weight loss guide. The consultation ended on 3 January 2006. As required by the Cabinet code on consultation, I have agreed that the consultation period should be time limited, given the interim nature of the tools and the importance of getting them quickly to health professionals.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether sufferers of osteoporosis under the age of 70 will continue to receive (a) bisphosphonates, (b) ralox and (c) strontium ranelate free on the NHS. 
Jane Kennedy: Government policy is to help those who may have difficulty paying prescription charges. The current exemption and charge remission arrangements are intended to ensure that no one need be deterred from obtaining any necessary medication on financial grounds.
Children under 16 and people aged 60 or over who are osteoporosis sufferers are entitled to free national health service prescriptions on the grounds of their age. Entitlement to free prescriptions is based on the principle that those who can afford to contribute should do so, while those who are likely to have difficulty in paying should be protected. However/people who have to pay can seek help under the NHS low income scheme, which provides help with health costs on an income-related basis.
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