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13 Feb 2006 : Column 1756W—continued

Compensation Claims

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost to public funds has been of claims for compensation from the NHS in each year since 1998. [46154]

Jane Kennedy: Information requested on the cost to public funds for all types of compensation claims from the national health service is not identifiable from NHS annual expenditure returns. Compensation payments made by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) are, however, identifiable and are shown in the following table.
Compensation paid by NHS Litigation Authority by scheme

Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts2294,78322,521(51)201,869175,277293,384329,412
Existing Liabilities Scheme55,926264,584(51)842,093343,242269,345128,071169,414
Ex-Regional Health Authority Scheme13,9217,9897,3723,8321,5621,0594,068
Liabilities for Third Parties Scheme(52)n/a315513,11214,480(53)7,39521,280
Property Expenses Schemen/a3594291,9316,8662,7353,839

(51) Amount reimbursed to trusts as part of the call-in" and included within Existing Liabilities Scheme/Clinical Negligence Scheme for trusts payments.
(52) NHS bodies liable for an excess" element not included in these totals.
(53) The apparent drop in payments under the Liabilities to Third Parties Scheme in 2003–04 was due to a change in invoicing policy by the NHSLA.

Computer Equipment

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice her Department has given to local authorities on the purchase and use of washable keyboards, mice and keyboard readers; and what encouragement her Department has offered them to purchase such items. [47689]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 2 February 2006]: The purchase of computer equipment is a local responsibility. We do not endorse particular products and such products cannot replace standard infection control measures such as hand hygiene. However, manufacturers can choose to submit their products that may contribute to infection prevention and control to the rapid review panel (RRP) for consideration. The RRP was set up to assess new and novel products that may help to improve infection control and reduce rates of healthcare associated infections. The RRP's recommendations are available on the Health Protection Agency's website at and can help inform national health service purchasing decisions.

Cystic Fibrosis

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make it her policy to exempt cystic fibrosis sufferers from prescription charges. [45809]

Jane Kennedy: We have no plans to extend the existing list of medical conditions that give exemption from prescription charges.

The extensive exemption and change remission arrangements mean that 87 per cent. of prescriptions are dispensed free of charge. As a result, many people with
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medical conditions not on the exempt list already get free prescriptions on other grounds. Anyone in work may claim help through the national health service low income scheme.

Prescription charges are currently being looked at by the Health Select Committee as part of its inquiry into NHS charges.


Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to increase access to NHS dentistry in North Yorkshire; and how many additional places have been made available since 1997. [7489]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 27 June 2005]: In September 2004, there were 794,177 patients registered with a national health service dentists in the North and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire strategic health authority (SHA) area, compared with 906,871 in September 1997.

In 2004–05, £1.3 million of access money for NHS dental services was made available to primary care trusts (PCTs) in the North and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire SHA area. The four PCTs within the North Yorkshire region are using this money to make available an additional 50,000 patient registrations.

Four Polish dentists are providing services to NHS dental patients in the Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale PCT and a further nine internationally-recruited dentists are working in the Selby and York PCT area. Furthermore, 0.9 whole time equivalent dentists have returned to work under the Keeping in Touch" scheme.

Departmental Website

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost of maintaining her main departmental website was for the last year for which figures are available; and how many visitors there were to the site in each of the last 12 months. [46305]

Jane Kennedy: The cost of the Department's corporate website ( and sub domain sites (,, and for the year 2004–05 was £724,956. These figures include hosting and maintenance, development and dedicated staff costs, using agreed civil service staff costs, including salaries, common services, etc.

The total number of visits to the main Department of Health website ( for the period January to December 2005 was 16,796,568. There were on average 871,497 unique users per month. The figures broken down by calendar month are shown in the table.
DateVisitsUnique users
January 20051,450,700897,192
February 20051,370,404868,740
March 20051,567,241972,913
April 20051,612,489982,772
May 20051,462,105889,320
June 20051,326,932791,278
July 20051,238,586726,929
August 20051,246,380762,351
September 20051,547,5051,018,882
October 20051,525,800968,917
November 20051,382,912877,830
December 20051,065,514700,836
Average per month1,399,714871,497

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Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the stocks of diamorphine in England were in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available; [47929]

(2) what steps her Department has taken over the last 12 months to address shortages of diamorphine; [47930]

(3) what guidance her Department has issued to health professionals over the last 12 months regarding the use of diamorphine. [47931]

Jane Kennedy: Overall demand for diamorphine has exceeded supply to such an extent that at no time have significant stocks accumulated within the supply chain.

As soon as it became aware that one of the two United Kingdom suppliers of diamorphine was experiencing problems, the Department, with the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (PASA) made arrangements for the other supplier to maximise its production, contacted the suppliers of morphine and other opiates to arrange for them to increase production, explored the possibility of obtaining diamorphine from abroad and routinely monitored production of the two suppliers against historic demand, and ensured as far as possible that supplies were available where needed.

On 23 December 2004, the Department issued an alert to the national health service warning healthcare professionals about the shortage of diamorphine and advising them to consider alternative painkillers wherever possible, and to reserve supplies for those patients whose need was greatest. The alert also included interim clinical guidance which was subsequently updated by the Association for Palliative Medicine. Additional guidance for doctors managing patients dependent on diamorphine was issued on 30 December 2004. The Department has also been in regular contact with healthcare professionals and has issued updates to them on the supply situation.

Diamorphine is now available from both Wockhardt UK and Chiron but supplies are still limited and are likely to remain so for the coming months. The Department is continuing to monitor the situation carefully.

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