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early signs of promise on Clostridium difficile, with latest quarterly figures showing a fall in numbers for the first time.
The financial improvement has not been at the expense then of patient care. In fact, the independent Healthcare Commissions last survey of recent hospital inpatients showed 92 per cent. rated their care as good, very good or excellent.
These results have been achieved, in part, by introducing a stronger, fairer and more transparent NHS financial regime, coupled with a renewed emphasis on performance management, but more importantly by NHS organisations taking action to increase productivity such as:
increasing the use of day surgery and minimally invasive techniques;
by providing support for people with long-term conditions and reducing unnecessary emergency bed days; and,
reducing the use of agency staff.
The comprehensive spending review settlement gave health a very good increase of 4.0 per cent. in real terms, but even this means the NHS will need to plan for a slowdown on the recent unprecedented levels of investment. The surplus gives the NHS flexibility to respond to fluctuations in demand and enables organisations to commit future growth on improving services for patients.
Through the rest of this financial year the NHS will use the surplus to accelerate improvements. For example, the strategic health authorities have between them agreed investments of £57 million in a programme of deep cleaning for hospitals to help deliver a better patient experience.
The NHS will also have the capacity to accelerate progress in the numbers of patients treated within 18 weeks of referral to a specialist. For example, £22 million has been made available in NHS South Central and is already producing more clinics, diagnostic facilities and operating theatre sessions.
While in the north-west £35 million will be made available to support a broad range of public health initiatives. A large amount of this resource will be
targeted at educational programmes. And in the East Midlands £7 million has been made available to improve GP access and premises along with a further £5 million to reduce health inequalities.
In conclusion, NHS performance at quarter 2 shows encouraging progress being made in delivering our promises to patients and the wider public and the forecast surplus is a reassuring sign that the NHS is restored to financial health and will enable investment in improving the quality of patient care. Tables have been placed in the Library.
The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): I am today announcing that three more initiatives are being added to the 10 already included as demonstrator sites for the protective capabilities programme. These initiatives are addressing the demands of major crime, serious organised crime and other threats to public safety by police forces and authorities working together in a range of different collaborative projects.
|Police Forces and Authorities||Initiative|
The demonstrator sites are being established to examine and develop different models of collaboration between forces to enhance the delivery of a range of policing services focused on protecting the public. The lessons learned will be used to strengthen the development of future police joint working, particularly in finding ways to improve the capability and capacity for protective services delivery.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): The Home Office Autumn Performance Report 2007 will be published tomorrow by command of Her Majesty. Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office. The Report will also be available on the Home Office website.
The report shows that we have made progress against our targets. We have continued to reduce the harm caused by drugs. We are cutting crime levels in high crime areas faster than elsewhere. In the year to June 2007 we have brought 1.434 million offences to justice. Police performance continues to improve in tackling crime and public confidence is continuing to increase.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I am today announcing that yesterday, on 28 November, I formally asked Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Courts Administration to work with the Chief Inspectors for the Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service to conduct a thorough inspection and prepare a report to Ministers into the resulting and warrant processes at Leeds magistrates court.
An experienced judge will also be appointed by the senior presiding judge to conduct an independent
investigation of the judicial responsibilities of legal advisers at Leeds magistrates court.
The concerns about Leeds magistrates court relate to two issues: the recording of outcomes of cases principally between 1997-2003 and subsequently, in the case of recordable offences, updating the Police National Computer (PNC). This is a process known as resulting. The second related issue centres on a process used for withdrawing warrants issued by the court for the arrest of defendants who fail to appear. The withdrawal of a warrant is a judicial decision.
Under Section 60(4) of the Courts Act 2003 and working with HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM Chief Inspector of CPS; the Chief Inspector of Court Administration will report to the Secretary of State for Justice, the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General as necessary on:
The Chief Inspector of Court Administration will support the separate and independent judicial investigation of the judicial responsibilities of legal advisers at Leeds magistrates court, as appropriate.
We have started investigating the national process and practice for withdrawing warrants, involving courts, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. This has identified differing practices across magistrates courts which will require further local investigation and may require us to clarify the procedures.
Simultaneously we are writing to all local criminal justice boards as part of a national review into warrant withdrawal practice across England and Wales and will provide further detailed national guidance should that be required.
Following a pro-active national review instigated by officials in January 2007 about the effectiveness of processes for resulting the 2.2 million cases dealt with in the magistrates court each year, my officials identified that there were some courts which needed to improve performance and take action to deal with any outstanding cases.
The majority of outstanding cases were dealt with by the end of May and performance has been improving since. The courts keep performance under regular review to ensure the accuracy of the resulting process. I have
however asked HMCS to again review comprehensively the information for any outstanding issues.
However, the national review identified a continuing issue at Leeds magistrates court where there was a problem with the process. Where any evidence of misconduct was found disciplinary investigations have been undertaken. A further investigation is ongoing.
As part of the work that court staff were undertaking to look at these issues, this month they identified a further problem with an historical process dating back to 2003 to withdraw old failure to appear warrants which had been agreed by the court, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police. Although the withdrawal of warrants is entirely appropriate in certain circumstances, the process used in Leeds needs to be investigated.
In June 2006 the Government issued guidance for areas on withdrawing warrants, emphasising the issues that should be taken into account and stressing that the decision to withdraw a warrant is a judicial one. However, over the last few months it has become evident that the issues over the processes used in Leeds were of sufficient concern to merit a detailed inquiry. The issue over the withdrawal of warrants, which was reported to ministers last week, is of particular concern.
It is for that reason I have asked the inspectors to review all of these matters to provide me with independent assurance that the issues have been dealt with appropriately and whether there are any national lessons that we should learn from the experience in Leeds. Together with the review of the process for the withdrawal of warrants and the judicial responsibilities review, I will then be able to assess whether further national actions need to be taken, including improvements to the resulting process.
HMCS has worked with the police to improve performance and, for the first time, the joint target of having 75 per cent. of all case results entered on the PNC within 10 days of the court hearing was met in July 2007 and has been maintained.
We have also improved the enforcement of warrants. From August 2004 until June 2007 there was a 54 per cent. reduction in the number of outstanding warrants. Latest data indicate that the number of warrants withdrawn per month has fallen by more than 30 per cent. since the same period in 2005.
I will make a further statement to the House on the findings and facts relating to all these matters, the action that has been taken and the actions that will be taken when the investigations have concluded. The inspectorate report will be published to Parliament.
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I am pleased to inform the House that an explanatory memorandum explaining the proposals for the use of framework powers in the Education and Skills Bill is available today. Copies of which can be found in the Vote Office, Libraries of both Houses and at: www.walesoffice.gov.uk