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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she will reply to the invitation of the Joint Scrutiny and Overview Committee for Sutton, Merton, Kingston and Surrey to attend one of its meetings to discuss her decision in respect of better healthcare closer to home. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: It is for trusts to decide how many nurses including palliative care nurse specialists, are employed in each specialty within hospitals. It is for local cancer networks working in partnership with primary care trusts, strategic health authorities and their workforce development directorates to assess, plan and review their workforce, education and training needs for all staff linked to the delivery of local and national priorities for cancer.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many students there were at (a) the Newcastle upon Tyne Medical School and (b) the Newcastle upon Tyne Dental School in each of the last five years; and what plans she has to increase the numbers of such students. 
Ms Rosie Winterton:
Table one shows the full-time undergraduate student numbers for medicine and dentistry at the joint Newcastle and Durham Medical and Dental school for 200102 to 200506. Table two shows the actual intake for new students for 200102 to 200506.
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|Newcastle medical school(28)||Newcastle dental school|
We announced jointly with the Higher Education Funding Council for England the allocation of 108 extra medical school places last month. This builds on the 68.7 per cent. increase in medical school places we have already overseen between 199798 to 200405. Also, 100 extra dental school places were also announced last month, including the development of a new dental school in the South West. All these places were allocated following highly competitive bidding exercises. We will continue to look at the scope for further expansion in line with national health service and workforce planning requirements.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance she has issued to general practitioners on the prioritisation of people with severe mental illnesses for immunisation against (a) influenza and (b) avian influenza. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: It is important to be clear about the differences between seasonal flu, avian flu and pandemic flu. Avian influenza is a disease which mainly affects birds. Seasonal flu refers to the virus that circulates in the human population and causes widespread illness each winter. Pandemic flu will only occur after an avian virus has mutated into a novel strain which can spread easily between humans and to which they do not have immunity.
We do not currently prioritise people with severe mental illnesses for immunisation against influenza and have made no specific plans to prioritise this group of people for immunisation against pandemic influenza.
As a specific vaccine will not start to become available until four to six months after the pandemic virus has emerged, it is unlikely to be available for the first wave. When stocks start to become available, priority may have to be given to certain groups. Health care workers and other essential service key workers may need to be vaccinated first, as it will be important to maintain
16 Feb 2006 : Column 2314W
health and other essential services. Those groups most at risk of serious illness will be a priority to receive the vaccine as supplies increase.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action she has taken in response to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommendations that psychological treatment should be offered prior to drug treatment for patients suffering from psychological conditions; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Local health communities are expected to review their existing practice in the treatment and management of various mental health problems against the guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The reviews should consider the resources required to implement any recommendations relating to the use of psychological interventions and the timeline over which full implementation is envisaged. As announced in the recent White Paper, 'Our health, our care, our say: a new direction for community services', the Government are committed to expand access to psychological therapies. To this end, two demonstration sites are being established for people of working age with mild to moderate mental health problems with the aim of helping them to remain in or return to work. The sites will also aim to establish an evidence base for the effectiveness of such therapies and to support the extension to non-working age people and those with moderate to severe mental illness.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the consistency and effectiveness of prescribing practices within the NHS for delivering the most effective drug therapies to individuals affected by psychological problems; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Responsibility for prescribing rests with the clinician caring for the patient. Prescribers have an ethical responsibility to inform patients about the treatment proposed including any possible side effects of prescribed medicines. It is the responsibility of local national health service bodies to ensure that robust clinical governance arrangements are in place to prevent poor prescribing. Local clinical audit and peer review provide an incentive for clinicians to study their patterns of care and improve prescribing standards. Clinical guidelines developed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence provide recommendations for good practice in the management and treatment of various mental health problems.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the requirement is for inspection of in-patient care facilities for people with mental illness in (a) the independent sector and (b) NHS establishments. 
Ms Rosie Winterton:
The Healthcare Commission has a statutory duty to assess the management, provision and quality of healthcare provided by the national
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health service. NHS trusts with inpatient mental health facilities are reviewed annually, and are awarded annual performance ratings.
The independent (private and voluntary) mental healthcare sector is also regulated by the Healthcare Commission, through registration, annual inspections and through the monitoring of complaints and information. The Healthcare Commission's duty to regulate and inspect independent healthcare is laid out in the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act" (2003), the Care Standards Act" (2000), and the Department's Private and Voluntary Healthcare (England) Regulations" 2001 and National Minimum Standards" 2002.
Detailed information about the Healthcare Commission's work on inspecting NHS and independent sector mental health inpatient facilities is available from the Healthcare Commission's website at www.healthcarecommission.org.uk.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much accommodating NHS patients detained under the Mental Health Acts in private sector beds cost in each year since 1997, broken down by strategic health authority area. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The information requested is not available. Data for detained patient costs is not collected, but the total costs for secure unit activity from non-national health service providers for the most recent year which data are available, 200304, and which includes detained patient costs, is shown in the table.
Secure unit service costs are not collected on an individual strategic health authority basis. Data for other years from 1998 is available on the Department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/refcosts, within worksheet TMHv, and data for 200405 is due for publication in March.
|Secure unit activity from|
|Number of occupied bed days||200304 national average unit cost (£)||Total activity cost (£)|
|Local psychiatric intensive care units||4,896||652||3,193,309|
|Low level secure services||57,096||376||21,444,545|
|Medium level secure services||100,760||441||44,438,180|
|High dependency secure provision: women's services||442||754||333,192|
|High dependency secure provision: mental health/ psychosis||1,226||407||499,349|
|High dependency secure provision: learning disabilities||6,728||305||2,054,729|
|High dependency secure provision: personality disorder||578||433||249,988|
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