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5. Ministers discussed the future form of European youth policy, based on a reflection paper prepared by the presidency. Several member states asked for a stronger role of the Youth Council, for example in co-ordinating exchanges of good practice, and for better co-ordination with other Council formations.
6. The UK said that youth policies are most effective when they were cross-cutting and local. We want to exchange good practice with other these areas. However, co-operation at EU level has to be properly based on local needs and developed as part of an integrated strategy. The Youth Pact and the existing open method of coordination are the right mechanisms for taking this forward. We do not need new structures and mechanisms.
7. Poland and Greece asked for the development of a European action plan on combating violence in schools. The Commission said it would take this topic into account in its forthcoming consultation and Communication on schools policy. Portugal, as the incoming presidency, urged caution. They stated that we should be careful not to over-simplify the problem of violence. More information and data about the situation in the member states was needed before any EU initiative was taken.
8. The Commission circulated a note on a possible European Year linking education, culture and creativity in 2009. An inter-institutional declaration on this subject is expected to be agreed in the second half of 2007.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): As recommended by Ofcom in their report of January 2006 into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients, the Department set up a Patient Power Review Group (PPRG) in February 2006 to explore how communication services could be offered to hospital patients with a lower per minute price for incoming calls. The PPRGs report will be published today.
all aspects of the charging structure;
the requirement to install, with limited clinical exceptions, units at every bedside within a hospital site, irrespective of use;
the requirement to offer services through a combined unit, offering television and telephone and capable of offering added value services; and
the need to clarify guidance on use of mobile phones in hospitals
Consequently, the Department will continue to work with the suppliers to look at how changes can be made to deliver benefits to patients, their families and the NHS from these systems. It will relax the licensing arrangements from February 2007, removing the constraints identified by Ofcom for new contracts, and issue guidance that clarifies where mobile phones can be used in hospitals without infringing patient privacy and dignity.
Following a number of complaints about the cost of incoming call charges to bedside telephones, Ofcom launched an investigation into the patient power systems, introduced by the NHS plan. In January 2006, the investigation concluded on the basis that the Department of Health and the service providers would work together to address the issues raised.
The Department of Health set up a review group to explore all aspects of the charging structure, the requirement to install (with limited clinical exceptions) units at every bedside within a hospital site, irrespective of use, and clarify the guidance issued by the Department of Health in respect of trusts exercising their own discretion in determining the local policy on the use of mobile phones in hospitals.
The review group published its findings in a report on 23 February 2007. It contains six recommendations for the Department of Health to consider. The Departments response to these recommendations is shown below:
Patient Power ReviewRecommendation (i): The Department of Health should continue to support the roll-out of the patient power programme across the NHS and, with the service providers, should engage in further discussions about potential mechanisms to address incoming call charges.
Government response: The roll-out of the patient power programme is complete, in respect of the NHS Plan commitment (July 2000). All targeted major hospitals have now signed a contract with their chosen supplier to provide the service, and over 160 hospitals have an operational system in place. The Department will continue to work with suppliers, to consider further ways of reducing the incoming call charges to the benefit of all users of the bedside systems.
Patient Power ReviewRecommendation (ii): The Department of Health should encourage trusts to review economic and infection-control related best practice concerning the in-house cleaning of bedside units.
Government response: The patient power national licence assumes that the service providers are responsible for cleaning the terminals as part of the general maintenance programme. The non-extension of the national licence will pave the way for NHS trusts
and service providers to renegotiate the terms on which the bedside units are cleaned for the benefit of the NHS and the service providers.
Patient Power ReviewRecommendation (iii): The Department of Health should continue to work closely with the service providers to support the development of the income generation projects that provide additional benefits for patients and staff.
Government response: The take-up of the additional services for the NHS has been slow to materialise, which suggests that trusts are not convinced about the benefits to patients and the cost savings to be made. Five pilot projects have been identified to address this issue and the Department will continue to work with the service providers to determine the benefits, to patients and the NHS, of these services. Although the Department cannot mandate the services into the NHS it will communicate the potential benefits to help it to make a decision on whether to invest in any or all of them.
Government response: The Department will promote the current guidance, and in response to inquiries from the NHS, will issue further guidance in spring 2007. It will focus on privacy and dignity issues, and point out what NHS trusts need to consider when determining where to ban and where to allow the use of mobile phones.
Government response: The review has been made more difficult by the complexity of the licence and concession agreements. Therefore, the Department will not renew the current licensing arrangements. In doing so, it will remove the constraints that Ofcom identified in its investigation. Current concessions remain valid for their duration but may be renegotiated with the agreement of both parties. Trusts without a system in place can work locally, with service providers to negotiate a new contract.
Patient Power ReviewRecommendation (vi): The Department of Health should reply formally to Ofcoms letter of 19 January 2006 in which it set out the findings and recommendations of its investigation.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney):
The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on
19 February. Anne Lambert, deputy permanent representative to the EU represented the UK. Michael Glos, German Federal Minister of Economics and Technologies, chaired the Council.
The first item on the agenda was a public debate on the Commissions action plan for reducing administrative burdens. The Council endorsed the proposal for a target to reduce burdens arising from EU legislation by 25 per cent. by 2012, with member states to set targets for reducing burdens within their own administrations next year. The UK spoke in favour of an EU target and a national target, and reinforced to the Commission the importance of conducting impact assessments for its proposals.
The next item on the agenda was the Commissions recently published communication on a modern regulatory framework for the automotive industry. The Commission stressed that an integrated approach was required to ensure that both the sustainability and competitiveness aspects were taken into account. There was initial discussion of the Commission communication and it is expected that there will be follow-up discussion at the next Competitiveness Council in May.
The competitiveness Council agreed a key issues paper which will be put to the spring European Council in March. The key issues paper is in line with UK priorities for economic reform and concentrates on five areas of action: the completion of the internal market; better regulation and reduction of administrative burdens for enterprises; investments in research, knowledge and innovation; industrial policy and Europes business potential; and strengthening Europes external competitiveness.
Over lunch, there was a discussion of Competitiveness, Climate Change, and Secure Energy Suppliesa Coherent Approach. The lunch was attended by Gunter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, and Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment.