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Non-life Threatening Conditions

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether she has received evidence that NHS organisations are reducing services for non-life threatening conditions; [75019]

(2) which conditions the NHS classes as non-life threatening. [76384]

Andy Burnham: There is no data available on the planned level of non-life threatening services but the national health service produces local delivery plans which set out the planned level of out-patient attendances and elective admissions to hospital. The 2006-07 plans are still being agreed with strategic health authorities but they currently show that, across England, the NHS is planning for a 1.4 per cent. increase in first out-patient attendances following a referral from a general practitioner and a 2.4 per cent. increase in elective admissions to hospital.

Parliamentary Ombudsman

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list those occasions when the recommendations of a report from the parliamentary ombudsman have been (a) rejected and (b) partly rejected by her Department since 1997. [76267]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: There has been one occasion since 1997 when the Department has partly rejected the recommendations of the parliamentary ombudsman. This concerned information withheld pending publication of a National Audit Office (NAO) report. Following publication of the NAO report, the Department acceded to all the Ombudsman’s recommendations except on one point.

Primary Care Trusts

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what financial assistance will be made available to support primary care trusts seeking to re-engineer services in accordance with the priorities set out in the White Paper “Our health, our care, our say”. [60751]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Revenue allocations covering 2006-07 and 2007-08 were announced to primary care trusts (PCTs) on 5 February 2005. Over the two years covered by this allocation PCTs will receive an average increase of 19.5 per cent. They are therefore able to plan to take account of the principles set out in the “Our health, our care, our say” White Paper and the wider programme of health reform, knowing how what resources they have available. In delivering wider reform, PCTs have the support of modernisation teams in strategic health authorities. These teams have an important role in ensuring the delivery of improvements in local health and social care services that maximise all opportunities and available resources.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been generated by the top-slicing of 3 per cent. of London’s primary care trust budgets; where this top-sliced income is being held; what decisions have been taken on the use of the fund; and if she will make a statement. [77848]

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Andy Burnham: A reduction to London primary care trusts (PCT) 2006-07 revenue allocations of 3 per cent. would amount to around £320 million. Reserves generated to manage the overall financial position are currently being held by strategic health authorities (SHAs). The final amounts and terms for the use of the reserves will be for local agreement between the SHA and PCTs, within a framework agreed with the Department.

Radon Gas

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measurement of radon gas has been recorded in each county in each of the last five years; and how this information is made available to the public. [77677]

Caroline Flint: The radiation division of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) manages the radon measurement programme in England and Wales. Buildings are monitored using two detectors supplied by HPA to measure levels of radon over a three-month period.

The HPA uses various campaign methods to encourage householders to have their dwellings measured but a number of householders choose to ignore this support. In the future, house holder-sales packs will include a section about radon levels in the house which will significantly help to raise awareness of radon gas.

The readings are fed into a national database to produce the radon atlas of England and Wales, publication NRPB-W26 from the HPA and available as a free download on, provides detailed data by administrative and postcode divisions as well as the definitive radon probability maps. This publication is due to be updated within the next 12 months.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures are in place to protect citizens from the effects of radon gas. [77678]

Caroline Flint: The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) first offered advice to the Government on the exposure to radon in dwellings in early 1987. (In 2005 the NRPB merged with the Health Protection Agency, becoming its radiation protection division.)

This advice was updated and expanded in 1990 in a statement and supporting document on the limitation of human exposure to radon in homes (reference NRPB. Human exposure to radon in homes. Doc. NRPB. 1, No. 1, 17-32 (1990)). Central to the control strategy is a recommendation that radon concentrations at or above an action level should be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable. In areas with a high risk of elevated radon concentrations, the radon concentration in existing homes should be measured and reduced as appropriate and new homes built with protective measures against radon.

Legislation under the Health and Safety at Work Act, Etc. 1974 means that in places of work the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 come into effect if radon is present above a defined level and then employers are required to take action to restrict resulting exposures.

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Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Government have determined a maximum safe level of radon gas. [77685]

Caroline Flint: Radiation protection principles are based on the level of risk and this approach is applied when dealing with radon gas levels in buildings. The risks from the presence of radon gas have to be balanced against other factors. From a public health perspective, priority has to be given to areas and houses that are more likely to suffer from the problem and this is tackled in many ways.

The Government accepted advice in a statement from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), published in 1990, on the limitation of human exposure to radon in homes and implemented the recommendations contained in the supporting document (reference NRPB. Human exposure to radon in homes. Doc. NRPB. 1, No. 1, 17-32 (1990)). (In 2005, the NRPB merged with the Health Protection Agency (HPA), becoming its Radiation Protection Division.)

The results of 13 European studies of indoor radon and lung cancer, taken together, provide overwhelming evidence that radon can cause lung cancer. There is no evidence of a threshold below which radon exposure is safe, and there is substantial evidence of a risk for individuals who live in homes with moderate radon concentrations as well as those with homes above 200 bequerels per metre cubed, the current United Kingdom (UK) action level. Homeowners are currently advised to apply radon reduction measures if tests show levels above the action level.

Significant efforts are being made by World Health Organisation, developed countries, UK Government and the HPA to determine how to raise awareness of the issue and to how to better tackle the whole problem.

Royal Assent

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list those (a) Acts and (b) parts of Acts which received Royal Assent between 1976 and 2006 and for which her Department has policy responsibility which remain in force. [69142]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Acts for which the Department retains full or part policy responsibility have been passed since 1976 and were in force as of 31 December 2005 are as follows:

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Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions she has had with the US Administration about H.R. 1079 (Holly's Law) and the
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experience of the US Administration in dealing with deaths caused by the abortion drug RU-486 in the United States; and if she will make a statement. [77592]

Andy Burnham: I refer the hon. Member to replies given on 3 May 2006, Official Report, columns 1701-02W.

Recent assessments by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), in consultation with independent experts, have concluded that the balance of risks and benefits of mifepristone (Mifegyne, RU-486) remains positive, for use in its licensed indications in medical abortion, and that no changes to prescribing advice are needed. The MHRA is aware of deaths that have been reported in association with the use of mifepristone both in the United States (US) and in the United Kingdom. However, as there is no clear evidence that mifepristone has caused these deaths there is no basis for regulatory action or further discussions with the US authorities.

Service Reorganisation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether primary care and NHS trusts in Gloucestershire are required to consult (a) the public and (b) voluntary organisations on possible changes in passenger transport services arising from reconfiguration of hospital and other services. [78901]

Caroline Flint: The requirement on trusts and primary care trusts is to consult on proposals to change health services not passenger transport services. Such issues, however, would be dealt with in the context of the health service consultation, and not treated separately.

However, the consultation which was launched on 12 June 2006 by Avon, Gloucester and Wiltshire strategic health authority, ‘The Future of Healthcare in Gloucestershire Proposals for Developing Sustainable NHS Services’, includes proposed changes to passenger transport services.

Sexually Abused Children

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what services are provided by the NHS for children in Milton Keynes who have been sexually abused. [77697]

Andy Burnham: Specialist services including treatment for sexually transmitted infections, termination of pregnancy and mental health services are available for those children who need them as a result of sexual abuse, wherever they are in England. For children with less severe mental health problems, it is more appropriate for universal services to provide the psychological support they need than for them to be referred to specialist child and adolescent mental health services.

The Department and the Mental Health Foundation jointly funded a multi-centre study to evaluate the use of psychotherapy with girls aged 6 to 14 years who had been sexually abused. Two of the main findings were that high rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder were found and both group
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and individual psychotherapy were effective and improvement in the patients condition tended to continue after treatment had ended.

It is important that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are developed in a way that is responsive to the needs of the populations they serve. The CAMHS standard of the children's National Service Framework (NSF) sets out the requirement for an assessment of the needs of particular groups of children in the locality who are vulnerable or at risk. The NSF also states that commissioners and services should be able to demonstrate multi-agency partnership working in the following areas: the provision of services to children and young people who may or may not have been harmed, as set out in “Working Together to Safeguard Children”; contributing to the assessment of complex child abuse cases; the assessment and provision of post-abuse therapeutic services; and services for looked after and adopted children.

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