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Hospitals: Reorganisation

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how often (a) she and (b) other Ministers from her Department have met chief executives of strategic health authorities in the last 12 months; and on how many of those occasions the re-configuration of hospitals was discussed. [124208]

Andy Burnham: All departmental Ministers are in regular contact with the chief executives of strategic health authorities (SHAs), according to their regional responsibilities, to discuss a range of issues including local plans for service reconfigurations. The Secretary of State also attends a regular monthly meeting with the chairs and chief executives of SHAs.

Infection Control

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many press releases her Department issued on infection control in each month since January 2004. [112413]


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Mr. Ivan Lewis: Since January 2004, the Department has published 28 press releases related to infection control, as follows:

Number

July 2004

2

October 2004

2

November 2004

2

December 2004

4

January 2005

1

February 2005

2

March 2005

2

May 2005

1

June 2005

1

July 2005

2

August 2005

1

September 2005

1

October 2005

2

December 2005

1

May 2006

1

July 2006

1

December 2006

1

January 2007

1


Influenza

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the consequences for public health of entry into the UK of a person carrying a virulent influenza strain that is transmissible between humans; and what action the Government are taking to help prevent such an eventuality. [120609]

Ms Rosie Winterton: It is important to be clear about the differences between seasonal influenza and pandemic influenza. Seasonal influenza refers to the illness which occurs each winter due to human influenza viruses which are circulating in the population. Pandemic influenza occurs infrequently, when a new influenza virus emerges which is markedly different from those recently circulating in the human population; causes disease in people; and spreads easily between people because they have little or no immunity to it. This could happen through an avian influenza virus, such as the H5N1 virus, mutating into a different strain with greater affinity for people.

It is also important to remember that it is very difficult to prevent a pandemic and it could emerge anywhere in the world including the United Kingdom. The UK is working closely with World Health Organisation and other international partners to prepare for, and respond to, a potential pandemic, including by containment of an emerging pandemic virus. The WHO has a stockpile of antiviral drugs, to which the UK has contributed, which will be sent to where a pandemic develops. If deployed rapidly, these drugs may help to contain an emerging pandemic virus or slow its national and international spread.

Should a pandemic develop, the UK would follow the procedures outlined in the UK Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plan, which was published in October 2005 and is available on our website at www.dh.gov.uk/pandemicflu. The plan is currently being revised and the revised plan will be published shortly.


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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the preparedness of (a) countries where humans have died from infection with avian influenza for the consequences of humans becoming infected with a potent mutated strain of virus that is transmitted between humans and (b) the UK and other developed countries; and if she will make a statement. [120610]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Government work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), which continues to carefully monitor the situation in countries where humans have died from infection with avian influenza. The WHO, in conjunction with the International Organisation of Animal Health, is working to ensure there is strong epidemiological surveillance in South East Asia to detect outbreaks early and on a strengthened rapid response capacity.

The United Kingdom works closely with the WHO and international partners to ensure that our planning is informed by expert advice and international consensus. The UK has tested its preparedness in several exercises. The WHO considers the UK to be at the forefront of preparedness internationally and we are continuing to consider what other measures could be taken to further improve our preparedness for a pandemic of influenza. Preparedness planning in other European countries was reported to be broadly good in an assessment published in the Lancet in 2006, although substantial variation between countries was noted.

Influenza: Vaccination

Mr. Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice her Department has issued on administering the tamiflu anti-viral drug to (a) poultry workers, (b) farm workers and (c) workers in other related industrial sectors; and if she will make a statement. [119939]

Ms Rosie Winterton: When an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is confirmed, poultry workers on the infected farm, together with vets, contractors and others who might be at risk due to direct close contact with diseased birds will be offered the antiviral therapy, Oseltamivir within 24 to 48 hours of disease confirmation.

Antiviral drugs will be made available and administered through the Health Protection Agency's (HPA) local health protection units in collaboration with the national health service in England (similar arrangements will apply in Wales and Scotland).

The Government have existing stocks of antiviral drugs available for this purpose. Arrangements have been put in place to make this available to poultry workers within 24 to 48 hours.

Further information is available on the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HPA websites.

Junior Doctors: Career Structure

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she has consulted (a) the British Medical Association and (b) its junior doctor representatives on the service implications of moving to a uniform August start date for Modernising Medical Careers. [123687]


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Ms Rosie Winterton: The British Medical Association (BMA) along with other important stakeholders has been consulted at every stage of the development of Modernising Medical Careers.

Historically, medical graduates have always begun their new jobs in the national health service in August while at the same time senior house officers begin new six-month contracts. In England, this could mean up to 20,000 doctors in training, including over 4,300 new graduates, taking up jobs in August.

Under Modernising Medical Careers, doctors in training will not be required to look for new jobs every six months. Instead, they will train in managed programmes lasting a number of years according to specialty.

Modernising Medical Careers will, therefore, help to ease rather than increase the pressure created by the August start date. We are aware, however, that there will still be a higher level of recruitment in August than in any other month. We have asked the Modernising Medical Careers United Kingdom Strategy Group to consider whether other arrangements might be more appropriate. The BMA and indeed NHS employers will be consulted as part of that study.

Ministerial Code

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health on how many occasions in each year since 1997 a Minister in her Department has had duties removed to avoid a potential conflict of interest under section 5.17 of the ministerial code. [118140]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: None.

MRSA

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will place in the Library the memo written by the Director of Health Protection, Liz Woodeson, in October 2006 on Government targets to combat MRSA; and if she will make a statement. [118343]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The document referred to by the hon. Member was a working document for discussion with Ministers and it is therefore inappropriate to place it in the Library.

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received on new strains of MRSA in the NHS; what steps her Department is taking to prevent such strains; and if she will make a statement. [118347]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: New emerging strains of meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other healthcare associated infections are picked up by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) through the provision of specialist and reference services and pro-active surveillance initiatives.

The Department receives representations on these issues from the HPA and others such as the Specialist Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance. We will be commissioning a project to investigate the
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prevalence of community associated-MRSA (CA-MRSA), including Panton Valentine Leukodidin (PVL)-producing strains.

While CA-MRSA is controlled by standard infection control procedures it can be difficult to identify. Consequently, we have produced guidance on the diagnosis and management of PVL infections and this is currently being revised.

NHS Trust Managers

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what her policy is on the re-engagement by an NHS Trust of an individual who has recently received a six-figure redundancy payment from another NHS Trust; [118418]

(2) if she will make it a priority to review the financial implications of the guidelines available to NHS Trusts in respect of redundancy payment arrangements for NHS management. [118419]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 2 February 2007]: Staff recruitment is a matter for local trust management in conjunction with the appropriate strategic health authority.

There is a published document covering redundancy arrangements and best practice for primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. It is entitled “Standards for implementing good human resource practice and value for money when staff are affected by organisational change” published by NHS Employers on 15 June 2006.

As detailed within section 16 of the “Agenda for Change NHS Terms and Conditions Handbook”. No redundancy payment or premature retirement benefits will be made or allowed to be retained where the person concerned obtains employment within the national health service or other qualifying organisations within a period of four weeks of the cessation of their employment. Neither will a person concerned be able to receive a redundancy payment or premature retirement benefits if they secure a promise of employment but defer commencement of that post within the NHS or qualifying organisation within four weeks of leaving their employment.

NHS Walk-in Centres

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many NHS walk-in centres have closed since 2000. [112416]

Andy Burnham: National health service walk-in centres are now local services commissioned or provided by primary care trusts and the Department does not hold comprehensive information on them. However, the Department is not aware of any such services which have closed.

NHS: Finance

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the level of overspend was by NHS Trusts in the latest period for which figures are available. [121393]


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Andy Burnham: Our national health service finance report for quarter three of 2006-07, published on 20 February, contains details of the forecast out-turn position for all national health service organisations. Copies are available in the Library.

NHS: Logos

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much (a) her Department and (b) NHS Identity has spent on licensing fonts since 1997. [117878]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department has spent £9,976 on font licences since 1997, of which £3,529 was spent on font licences for use with the national health service corporate identity.

Ophthalmology: Voucher Schemes

Jim Dowd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she intends to extend the voucher scheme for the free issue of low vision aids by dispensing opticians. [121531]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Low vision aids are already available free on loan to any person assessed as requiring them. The hospital eye service assesses the needs of the individual and provides any necessary low vision aids. There are no plans to bring low vision aids within the scope of the optical voucher scheme.

Social services departments also have responsibility for assessing the needs of individuals who request help due to problems with their vision. This help is usually in the form of modifications to a person’s home.

Patients Forums

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether a statutory requirement exists to enforce communications between NHS trusts and patients’ forums. [124358]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Patient’s Forums (Functions) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2124) require that a patients forum may require national health service trusts to produce any information that appears to them to be necessary for the effective carrying out of their functions. The NHS trust must comply promptly and in any event no later than 20 working days following the date the requirement was made.

The same Regulations also require that where a patients forum requests a response from the NHS trust for which it is established, and to whom it has made a report or recommendation, that trust shall respond in writing to the patients forum promptly and in any event again no later than 20 working days following the date the request was made giving an explanation of any actions it intends to take; or why it does not intend to take any action.

Physiotherapy

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the employment prospects for newly qualified physiotherapists in 2007 and 2008. [123806]


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