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26 Jun 2006 : Column 223W—continued


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what priority is given to answering letters from hon. Members by the chief executive of NHS Direct; [80000]

(2) what the average time taken by the chief executive of NHS Direct to respond to correspondence was in the last period for which figures are available; [80001]

(3) how many letters the chief executive of NHS Direct has received from hon. Members on the issue of the proposed closure of NHS Direct centres. [80002]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Chief Executive of NHS Direct endeavours to answer all correspondence promptly, whilst ensuring that information is accurate before the response is sent. All correspondence from hon. Members is treated as a high priority.

Figures for the average response time are not collected, but correspondence requiring a letter in response is generally dealt with in approximately seven working days. In more complex cases, responses may take longer than this.

There has been an increase in correspondence since the beginning of the consultation period and, as a result, it has taken longer than usual to respond. In addition, the chief executive has been out of the office more than usual, visiting sites and meeting staff potentially affected by the consultation proposals.

A number of contacts from hon. Members have been received in relation to the consultation, addressed to various senior managers. The chief executive has received six letters or emails directly relating to the consultation. In addition, there have been two letters addressed to the Chair and one further to a senior manager.

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Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Reigate of 11 May 2006 on her decision to overrule the recommendations of the ‘Better Health Care Closer to Home’ report; and whether her reply will take into account the decision to allow a judicial review of her decision. [80289]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: A reply to this letter was sent on 22 June 2006. The Department has received details and is currently considering the situation.

Criminal Offences

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the criminal offences created in legislation sponsored by her Department since April 2005, broken down by Act. [76912]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: No criminal offences have been created in primary legislation sponsored by the Department since April 2005.


Mr. Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the Government’s position is on the recommendation of the European medical devices expert group that dental patients be given a copy of the Statement of Conformity; and if she will make a statement. [79794]

Andy Burnham: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) on 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 1799W.

Departmental Staff

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what opportunities exist for people to work beyond retirement age in her Department. [69216]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department’s normal retirement age for all employees is 60. However, employees below the senior civil service level are entitled to work to age 65 if they wish. Any request to work beyond age 65 would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Members of the senior civil service may be retained beyond age 60 if it is considered to be in the public interest and the Department is satisfied about the fitness and efficiency of the individual to carry out his or her duties.

Drug Tariffs

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what process her Department used to determine the proposed 15 per cent. price decrease for chemical reagents in the Drug Tariff Part IX consultation; and what steps she is taking to ensure transparency in the consultation. [80428]

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Andy Burnham: The Department has undertaken an analysis of the reimbursement prices on the drug tariff for chemical reagents and as a result, has concluded that the national health service and the taxpayer may not be obtaining value-for-money at the current reimbursement levels. Further details are available in the consultation document ‘Arrangements for the provision of dressings and chemical reagents to primary care: A consultation’ which is available on the Department’s website at: Consultations/fs/en. A copy has been placed in the Library.

Where specific information has been required from manufacturers as part of the consultation, the Department has provided clear guidelines as to what was required. The Department has held meetings with manufacturers and their representative trade body, with NHS representatives and with patient groups. In addition, a meeting was hosted to brief hon. Members on 21 June 2006.

Flag Flying

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) on how many days since May 1997 the St. George's flag has been flown from her Department's buildings; [77730]

(2) what her Department's policy is on flying the (a) St. George's flag and (b) EU flag from departmental buildings; [77731]

(3) if she will ensure that the Union Flag is flown from her Department's buildings on every day the offices are open. [77732]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport issues guidance for flying flags on Government buildings of which the Department adheres to. This includes flying the St. George's flag and the European flag on buildings with two or more flagpoles. These rules area approved by the Queen on advice from that department.

The Department has only one flagpole and therefore does not fly the St. George's flag or the European flag. There are no plans at present to change the number of days flags can be flown from Government buildings.

Foreign Travel

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much was spent on foreign travel by her Department in each of the last eight years. [76061]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

General Practitioners

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many GPs there were in Coventry, South constituency (a) in 1997 and (b) on the latest date for which figures are available. [79470]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The information is not available in the format requested. The following table shows the number of general practitioners (GPs) within the area
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covered by the current West Midlands South strategic health authority in each year since 1997, and within Coventry teaching primary care trust (PCT) each year since 2001, the earliest date for which figures are available.

All general medical practitioners, excluding retainers and registrars( 1) , for specified organisations, 1997 to 2005
West Midlands, South Of which: Coventry PCT




























n/a = Data not applicable
(1) General medical practitioners, excluding retainers and registrars, includes contracted GPs, general medical service (GMS) others and personal medical service (PMS) others. Prior to September 2004 this group included GMS unrestricted principals, PMS contracted GPs, PMS salaried GPs, restricted principals, assistants, salaried doctors (Para 52 SFA), PMS other, flexible career scheme GPs and GP returners.
Data as at 1 October 1997- 2000 and 30 September 2001-2005
The Information Centre for health and social care General and Personal Medical Services Statistics

Health Treatment Centres

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of her Department’s budget was spent on the establishment of independent sector treatment centres in each year since 1997; what proportion of the budget for the establishment of such centres was spent on the employment of management consultants in each year; and what proportion of each budget she expects to be spent in each category in 2006-07. [61717]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The independent sector treatment centre (ISTC) programme was launched in December 2002 and figures for the establishment of ISTCs are not available prior to 2003. The percentage of the Department’s budget that was spent on the procurement of ISTCs was 0.03 per cent. in 2003-04; 0.05 per cent. in 2004-05; 0.04 per cent. in 2005-06 and it is estimated to be 0.05 per cent. for 2006-07. Much of the work of this programme is done through consulting staff so the proportion of these costs estimated to have been spent on management consultants is 84.6 per cent., 67.4 per cent., 59.3 and 60 per cent., respectively.

Illegal Immigrants

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many illegal immigrants have been discovered to be employed by her Department in each year since 2001; in what capacities they were employed; how many were discovered as part of a criminal investigation; and what the nature of the charges brought against them were. [73963]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis: No illegal immigrants have been discovered to be employed by the Department in the period for which information is requested.

Independent Sector Treatment Centres

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what criteria she uses to determine the allocation of resources to independent sector treatment; and what account she takes of the distance between facilities, whether NHS or not, providing similar services. [79279]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: It is for local national health service commissioners to determine the volume of healthcare they purchase from the independent sector (IS) in line with local priorities.

The Department conducted national capacity planning exercises through strategic health authorities (SHAs) in 2002 and 2004. Through these exercises SHAs estimated the additional capacity in elective treatment and diagnostics required to meet key public service agreement waiting times targets, and identified how much of this capacity would need to be sourced from IS providers.

The outcomes of capacity planning provided the basis for taking forward national procurements of elective and diagnostics capacity from the IS. The procurement process is designed to allow the independent sector to work in partnership with local healthcare economies to provide solutions which meet local requirements and work effectively alongside NHS provided services.

Mental Health

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the total expenditure was on mental health promotion in each year since 1997-98. [75437]

Ms Rosie Winterton: We provide support to implementing mental health promotion through our funding of the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE), part of the care services improvement partnership. Most of NIMHE's national programme priorities will not have had mental health promotion as a distinct priority, but will have included this as an integral element. Information on the exact proportion of spending on mental health promotion is therefore not known.

The table shows NIMHE's total allocations for each year since 2002-03, when it was established. Information on funding which could have been used for mental health promotion prior to this date is not available. NIMHE's eight regional development centres (RDCs) are allocated funding each year to finance all mental health workstreams in their own areas, and RDCs make their own spending decisions, including choosing the proportion of their budgets which are spent on mental health promotion.

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Total departmental funding for NIMHE, by financial year, since 2002-03
Funding (£000)









Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what physical protection is routinely offered to mental health professionals in the course of their work; [76760]

(2) how many attacks have been made on people who work with mental health patients in each of the last 10 years for which records are available. [76777]

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps she is taking to improve the safety of patients and staff on mental health wards; [77228]

(2) how many (a) members of staff, (b) patients and (c) visitors have suffered (i) verbal and (ii) physical assaults on mental health wards in each of the last 10 years. [77229]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The NHS Security Management Service has developed a range of both proactive and reactive initiatives to tackle violence and aggression against staff, including those who work in the mental health setting.

A network of local specialists has been put in place, with the professional skills to provide advice on the protection of national health service staff, supported nationally by the NHS Security Management Service. All health bodies, including mental health trusts, are required to nominate a local security management specialist to provide localised, specialist skills. A specific accreditation course has been developed for those local security management specialists based in mental health trusts and the first course took place in April 2006.

An expert group has also developed a national syllabus for the management of violence training in mental health and learning disability settings. The aim is to equip staff with the necessary skills to be able to identify and de-escalate potentially violent situations from occurring in the first place. The NHS Security Management Service has worked closely with stakeholders such as the Department, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the National Institute of Mental Health England to develop this syllabus.

The information requested was not collected in the format requested prior to 2004-05. However, the NHS Security Management Service has collected data on the number of physical assaults on NHS staff in England for the period 2004-05. The figure for assaults in mental health and learning disability environments was 43,097.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much funding has been provided by her Department for research into the (a) prevention, (b) treatment and (c) cure of dementia in each of the last three years; whether she has made an assessment of the research funding provided by other EU countries; and if her Department will increase the priority for those purposes it gives to such research. [77632]

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Mr. Ivan Lewis: The main agency through which the Government supports medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC is an independent body funded by the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Innovation. Recent levels of MRC expenditure on research into dementia(1) have been as follows:

£ million






not yet available

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