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4 May 2006 : Column 1774W—continued

Fluoridation Schemes

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 29 March 2006 to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Donohoe), Official Report, column 1062W, on fluoridation schemes, if she will add hon. Members for relevant constituencies to the list of those whom strategic health authorities are advised to notify of proposals for water fluoridation. [66348]

Caroline Flint: The Department will amend the ChiefDental Officer's letter of September 2005 to advise strategic health authorities to notify Members of Parliament with constituencies that would be affected when they are undertaking a consultation about a fluoridation scheme.

Folic Acid

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations her Department has received in the last 12 months on the effects of folic acid ingestion on the elderly. [66097]

Mr. Byrne: Over the last 12 months, there were 32 responses to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition's consultation on its draft report on folate and disease prevention, Of the 32, 13 responses covered vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly. The Department, together with the Food Standards Agency, has also received parliamentary questions as well as letters from hon. Members and from members of the public on the subject.

Food Supplements

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate she has made of (a) the number of food supplements on the market which contain boron and (b) the value of (i) wholesale and (ii)retail annual sales of such supplements; and whether she plans to have discussions with industry representatives about the potential impact of decisions by the European Union not to permit the use of boron in food supplements; [66728]
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(2) what assessment she has made of the implications for the setting of maximum permitted levels for nutrients in food supplements of the decision of the General Food Law section of the European Union's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 9 February not to permit the addition of boron to the list of ingredients permitted under the provisions of the Directive on Foods for Particular Nutritional Purposes; whether she plans to make representations to (a) the European Commission and (b) the German Government on this matter; and if she will make a statement; [66729]

(3) what Government policy is on boron in food supplements; and what assessment she has made of the implications of this decision for objectives for the setting of maximum permitted levels of nutrients in food supplements; [66730]

Caroline Flint: A decision has not yet been taken at the standing committee on the food chain and animal health on the addition of boron to the list of ingredients permitted under the provisions of the directive on foods for particular nutritional purposes or of the food supplements directive. An assessment of the number or market value of food supplements containing boron that are available in the United Kingdom has not been made.

The Government supports the addition of boron to the positive list in the food supplements directive, and supplements containing boron are permitted on the UK market.

The outcome of recent discussions at the European Commission (EC) standing committee on the food chain and animal health on the use of boron in food supplements was discussed at a meeting with industry representatives on 15 March 2005.

Representations have been made to the EC and the German authorities regarding the UK position on the addition of boron to the positive lists of the directives on food supplements and foods for particular nutritional uses.

Any substance on the positive list in the food supplements directive will be subject to the provisions of the directive. This includes making provisions for establishing maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements. The EC has indicated that it will bring forward discussion documents at the end of 2006 to consult stakeholders and member states on this issue.

Freedom of Information

Greg Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance her Department issues to primary care trusts on charges made for freedom of information requests. [67170]

Mr. Byrne: The Department has not issued any guidance to primary care trusts (PCTs) on charges made for freedom of information requests. PCTs are public authorities in their own right in terms of the Act and therefore have the option to charge in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 and following the guidance on the regulations provided by the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
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General Practitioners

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many general practitioners in each primary care trust are participating in out-of-hours work in the same area as they are registered as a general practitioner. [65973]

Mr. Byrne: The information is not collected by the Department. It is for individual primary care trusts to ensure that out-of-hours provision in their areas continue to be improved and developed into a better service for patients.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the effect of the new general practitioner contract on clinical outcomes. [66830]

Mr. Byrne: The new general medical services contract was introduced in April 2004. Part of the contract is the quality and outcomes framework (QOF), which rewards practices for the work they do rather than simply the number of patients they treat. High achievement in the first year of the QOF (over 91 per cent., average achievement of points) means that patients are receiving a higher standard of care and treatment from their local general practitioner practices.

Research by the national primary care research and development centre at the University of Manchester (published in the Journal of Quality and Satisfaction in Healthcare in 2004) shows that significant health gains could result from achieving the quality targets in the QOF. The research estimated the amount of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and death, which could be prevented over five years in a general practice population of 10,000.

Reaching the cholesterol reduction targets could prevent, in an average practice, 15 events in people with coronary heart disease, seven events in people with a history of stroke and seven events in people with diabetes. Achieving blood pressure control targets in hypertensive patients without those conditions could prevent 15 cardiovascular events.

The amount of health gain is sensitive to current quality of care, prevalence of conditions and risk factors. Nevertheless, it is clear that achievement of QOF targets across the country could prevent thousands of serious events, including deaths, from cardiovascular disease.

Health Care Staff

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action her Department is taking to ensure placements and employment for medical and other health care staff at all levels who will be completing their training in 2006. [66059]

Mr. Byrne: The Department has provided the national health service with funding to provide more than enough foundation programme year 1 posts, for all graduates from English medical schools in 2006–07.

There are still lots of job opportunities within the NHS, with NHS Jobs advertising between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs at any given time.
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The NHS still needs newly qualified staff to replace those who retire or take career breaks. However there is now more competition and new staff may not always be able to find the job they want in the location they want and may need to be more flexible.

Strategic health authorities and NHS trusts are working proactively to find slots for both clinical placements and newly qualified staff within their overall work force plans.

Imported Blood Products

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether her Department (a) asked and (b) required individuals with haemophilia to sign a waiver in 1991 intended to block legal redress in the event of infection with hepatitis C from NHS blood products after a hepatitis C test was completed; and if she will make a statement. [64130]

Caroline Flint: In 1988, a special payments scheme was introduced for haemophiliacs infected with HIV through blood products. This scheme is administered by the Macfarlane Trust. In 1991, as part of a settlement of court proceedings a further lump sum payment was made under the scheme for haemophilia patients infected with HIV. From that time, all beneficiaries of the Trust have been required to sign a waiver undertaking not to take legal action against the Department or any other public body in respect of infection from HIV, or hepatitis viruses. It is usual in litigation that when a settlement is reached, claimants cannot then reopen the proceedings.

We deeply regret that so many people with haemophilia were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood products. In 2004, the Government set up the Skipton Fund to administer the ex-gratia payment scheme for people infected with hepatitis C from national health service blood or blood products.

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