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Andy Burnham: The table indicates the number of applications received by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in respect of proposed changes to medicines labelling and/or patient information leaflets during the years cited. It also sets
out the percentage of applicants notified of the outcome of the submission within 30, 60 and 90 calendar days of receipt of a valid submission. The longest time taken to progress an individual case in the years cited was 128 and 156 calendar days respectively.
The MHRA is in regular discussion with industry associations and individual companies about the processes in place to assess applications and the time scales involved. I am aware that its performance regarding licence and variation approval times during the past months has been affected by a combination of adverse factors including increases in work load, difficulties in recruiting professional assessment staff, especially medically qualified staff, and transitional implementation problems during the introduction of a new information management system. The MHRA is taking a number of steps to improve service levels. These include organisational restructuring, additional recruitment, re-training of staff, voluntary schemes for extended working hours, and information system performance enhancements. The MHRA's new information management system will provide the potential for greater efficiency within the MHRA and also provide a number of additional benefits to the industry, such as the ability to make electronic applications, and track progress of outstanding applications.
The MHRA is committed to developing regulation which is proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and targeted and is currently considering how unnecessary regulatory burdens, primarily in relation to over the counter (OTC) medicines, could be eased. To take this important initiative forward, the MHRA is leading the better regulation of OTC medicines initiative. As part of this process, industry has been asked to quantify the business impact of the time taken to respond to applications for a change to product information and this will inform proposals for change.
In the period from 1 April to 31 December 2005 in England, there were 1,818 hospital occupied bed days spent by patients aged under 16 on admission on adult psychiatric wards. The equivalent figure for patients aged 16 or 17 on admission was 25,045.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the evidential basis was for the statement she made on BBC Radio 5 Live that the national health service had had its best year ever; and if she will make a statement. 
Andy Burnham: Over the past year, the national health service has continued to deliver improved services. Hospital waiting lists are lower than ever, over half a million down from their peak, and there is now a maximum wait of six months for an inpatient appointment, from over 18 months in 2000, and 13 weeks for an outpatient consultationit was over a year in 2000.
The NHS is delivering cancer services more quickly, to more people than ever before, and over 99 per cent. of people with suspected cancer are seen by a specialist within two weeks of being referred urgently by their general practitioner (GP)this figure was 63 per cent. in 1997. In addition, over 96 per cent. of patients receive treatment within one month of being diagnosed with cancer.
Patients now have more choice and involvement in their own carehospital appointments are booked for the convenience of the patient and, since 1 January 2006, eligible patients needing planned hospital care are being offered a choice of at least four providers, where this is clinically appropriate, at the point of GP referral to consultant-led first outpatient appointments.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to change his proposals for increasing inspection fees for charitable multiple sclerosis treatment centres offering oxygen therapies following the review by the Healthcare Commission; and if he will make a statement. 
Andy Burnham: The Healthcare Commission recently consulted on its proposals for a revised fees scheme for registered private and voluntary healthcare establishments, including those providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Their proposals are being considered and the commission will publish their revised scale of fees in the near future.
Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average NHS expenditure per head was in the hospitals located in (a) Bexley care trust's area of responsibility and (b) London in the most recent period for which figures are available. 
Caroline Flint: A report completed for the Department by McKinsey and Company which considers the scope and uses of the new national health service information technology systems, and in particular their application to clinical research in the United Kingdom, was published in December 2005 and can be found on the following website:
The plan to outsource the NHS Logistics Authority was set out in Reconfiguring the Department of Health's Arm's Length Bodies in July 2004 and an advertisement was placed in the Official Journal of the European Union in August 2004.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) pursuant to the statement of the Minister of State of 7 February 2006, Official Report, columns 806-07 on NHS reorganisation, what progress has been made in developing the detail of a commissioning proposal; what the timetable is for its development and implementation; who is responsible for its development; and if she will make a statement on the
steps being taken to ensure equal access to a choice of providers for patients from the Isle of Wight; 
Andy Burnham [holding answer 24 April 2006]: As part of the programme of work set out in Health Reform in England: update and next steps (December 2005), the Department is developing a new system of commissioning health services, which will operate as a partnership between general practitioner (GP) practices, primary care trusts (PCTs) and local authorities.
The commissioning policy framework will be published in the summer of 2006. This work is being led by the Departments policy and strategy directorate, with the support and advice of an external reference group drawn from a wide range of stakeholder and partner organisations.
PCTs are responsible for commissioning the choices offered at referral in consultation with patient groups. The Isle of Wight PCT has commissioned services from seven providers, four of which can be reached within approximately one hour 30 minutes travelling time. Some patients will need assistance with travel to hospital. PCTs are responsible for ensuring that there is provision of ambulance services, which could include patient transport services, to such extent as they consider necessary to meet all reasonable requirements. It is, therefore, for the local NHS to decide who provides patient transport services for eligible patients in their area. In addition, patients on a low income may be entitled to reimbursement of their travel costs under the hospital travel cost scheme. This applies to any of the hospitals on their PCTs choice menu.
Our Health, Our Care, Our Say set the direction for designing services which will provide patients with access to care as close to their home as possible. This may involve the use of community hospitals and through increasing provision of secondary care services in a primary care setting, for example by GPs with a special interest.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the Answer of 27 April 2006, Official Report, column 1301W, on elderly care costs, whether she has requested the figures for the estimated savings on Department for Work and Pensions disability benefits that would result from making free personal care available. 
Andy Burnham: Clause 29 of the Health Bill inserts two new sections, sections 72A and 72B, into the Medicines Act 1969 in relation to the responsible pharmacist. The Government believe that the general rule should be one responsible pharmacist, one pharmacy, if the responsible pharmacist is to discharge his or her responsibilities for the safe and effective running of the pharmacy. For the vast majority of pharmacies, we expect each to have its own responsible pharmacist. However, we also believe that there should be provision to consider any exception to this rule, where circumstances justify such an exception. Section 72A(2) provides for a pharmacist to be responsible for more than one pharmacy at any one time only in circumstances to be specified in regulations and where there is compliance with certain conditions set out in the regulations. Our intention is to consult, in due course, with all interested parties on what these circumstances and conditions might be.
It is for local national health service organisations in conjunction with the primary care trusts and strategic health authorities to plan and develop services according to the needs of their local communities.
I am informed that Queen Mary's hospital trust has launched a formal consultation on proposals to reduce the work force. This consultation ends on 28 June 2006 following which the trust board will consider all views received at a formal public meeting.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health why the Government has not yet implemented all of the recommendations of Dame Janet Smith's inquiries into the case of Harold Shipman; what steps she is taking to implement the remaining recommendations; and if she will make a statement. 
Andy Burnham [holding answer 8 May 2006]: The Government have already published details of the action they are proposing to take forward the recommendations of the Shipman inquiry's fourth
report on controlled drugs, and the recommendations in the third report relating to reform of the coroners' system. Good progress has already been made in implementing the action programme on controlled drugs, and draft legislation to implement the action on coronial reform will be presented to Parliament later this year.
The Government are now awaiting the recommendations of a review by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of certain aspects of medical regulation, including the revalidation of doctors. The CMO is currently finalising his report and will be reporting to ministers in the near future. Once Ministers have considered the CMC's recommendations, the Government will publish a comprehensive action programme responding to the outstanding recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry and to the linked recommendations in the Ayling, Neale and Kerr-Haslem inquiries.
Andy Burnham: The Department does not use any definition of a small firm. In reporting data about businesses placed with small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), we define a SME as a firm employing under 250 people. This is in line with the definition of a SME provided by the Department of Trade and Industry's small business service. The Department does not differentiate between a small firm and a medium-sized firm for procurement purposes.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which clinical procedures are undertaken for NHS patients at the treatment centre at Shepton Mallett; how much is paid to the treatment centre each time each such procedure is undertaken; how much would be paid to an NHS hospital in the area for the same procedure; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis [ holding answer 8 May 2006]: The Shepton Mallett treatment centre provides procedures in orthopaedics, ophthalmology, general surgery and endoscopy. The price per procedure paid to wave one independent sector treatment centres is commercially confidential.
The independent sector treatment centre programme has ensured value for money by running a robust and competitive procurement process, benchmarking procedure prices between contracts and comparing them to those traditionally paid to the NHS.
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