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30 Jan 2006 : Column 163W—continued

Departmental Staff

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many civil servants in her Department worked from home for at least one day a week in the last year for which figures are available. [40289]

Jane Kennedy: The Department has a formal home-working scheme under which the home is the employee's place of work for all or some of the working week. The Department's human resource information system currently records four staff as members of this scheme. However, the Department also provides a wide variety of other arrangements which allow staff to work flexibly, and thereby help to promote diversity and the achievement of a better work-life balance, while still ensuring its business is conducted effectively. These include initiatives such as a flexitime scheme, part-time working, job sharing, part-year appointments, which are particularly suitable for people wishing to work only during school term time, compressed hours, fitting the working week into less that five full days, and special leave arrangements to cope with a variety of circumstances.

The Department also allows staff to work at home on an occasional basis at management discretion. This is becoming more widespread with the greater use of information technology, which means staff can carry out more of their work away from the office.


Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the initial activity undertaken by her Department in response to those recommendations in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Report, Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People, where lead responsibility was assigned to all Government departments. [37078]

Mr. Byrne: The Department has lead responsibility for recommendations primarily relating to increasing people's ability to live independently. Our first priority for action has been developing pilots for Individual Budgets. The idea behind Individual Budgets is to put people at the centre of the system that delivers their services and give them more choice and control over how resources are used to support their needs. The Department is working with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to take this forward.

We are also working with DfES to take forward a number of recommendations relating to early years and family support and the transition to adulthood, such as pilots in 70 local authorities for year 9 transition reviews for children with learning disabilities.
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The Department of Health has supported DWP in its launch of the Office of Disability Issues (ODI). We are working with DWP and the ODI to take forward recommendations on supporting disabled people to find and retain employment.

Drug Prices

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the price paid by the NHS for drugs and medicines compared with the European average; and if she will make a statement. [45490]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 25 January 2006]: Prices for branded medicines in the United Kingdom are broadly comparable to those in Germany and Finland but higher than those in most other European countries, based on 2003 market exchange rates. Further details are available in the Eighth Report to Parliament on the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme.

Emergency Re-admissions

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer to question 29552, on emergency re-admissions, if she will provide the figures for quarter 4 of 2004–05 and quarter 1 of 2005–06. [37503]

Mr. Byrne: Total figures by quarter (but not by age) are published in the Chief Executive's Report to the NHS, Statistical Supplement-December 2005". The statistical supplement is available at

More detailed and more specific figures by appropriate age band will be published on the National Centre for Health Outcomes Development's (NCHOD) website in early 2006, though they will not cover the precise age bands as provided in the reply I gave on 17 October 2005, Official Report, column 762W.

There may be small differences between the various sources due to differences in coverage and definition.

Executive Agencies

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what (a) targets, (b) advice and (c) guidance her Department has given to Executive agencies that fall under the remit of her Department on the reorganisation of their administrative functions on a regional basis; and if she will make a statement. [41643]

Jane Kennedy: In response to the Lyons Review, the Department has advised its Executive agencies and other arms length bodies (ALBs) that where opportunities arise, plans should be formulated to
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relocate posts that are not involved in local service delivery to new locations outside London and the Greater South East. In formulating these plans, agencies are to take account of the guidance being produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on choice of location.

For the Department's Executive agencies this work is being taken forward as part of the change programme arising from the Department's ALB review of 2004.

Fake Prescription Drugs

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps are being taken to prevent fake prescription drugs entering the NHS supply chain; [43609]

(2) what procedures are in place to safeguard the supply of prescription drugs to the NHS; [43610]

(3) what research she has evaluated on the number of fatalities within the NHS due to fake medications. [43611]

Jane Kennedy: The Government body responsible for the regulation and licensing of medicines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) operates a comprehensive anti-counterfeiting strategy, working with partners and stakeholders to ensure that the current safeguards work effectively and that vigilance against counterfeit medicines entering the legitimate United Kingdom supply chain is maintained. The key elements of this strategy include:

This is a long-term strategy which is backed by investment and a significant commitment of resources to minimise the risk of counterfeit medicines reaching patients.

The supply and distribution of medicines is tightly controlled within the European community. All licensed wholesalers must comply with the community's agreed standards of good distribution practice and there exist strict licensing and regulatory requirements enshrined in UK domestic legislation to safeguard patients against potential hazards arising from poor distribution practices, for example, purchasing suspect or counterfeit products, poor storage, failing to establish the bona fides of suppliers and purchasers, inadequate record keeping, avoiding deterioration of the medicinal product, etc. The MHRA will take regulatory action where breaches are identified, which may take the form of revoking licenses or the instigation of criminal proceedings.

The MHRA is unaware of any fatalities within the UK directly attributable to counterfeit medicines, and does not conduct research into this issue.
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Folic Acid

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information her Department distributes informing women of child bearing age about folic acid supplementation. [37685]

Caroline Flint: The Department has produced information for women on the benefits of taking folic acid supplementation through a leaflet called 'Folic acid what all women should know' for the national health service. Information on the benefits of folic acid supplementation is also included in the 'Pregnancy Book' for women planning a subsequent pregnancy and all communications on diet and nutrition for women of child bearing age. Mainstream verbal advice is also given by health professionals who come into contact with women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy.

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