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What administration costs were incurred by the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to the European structural and cohesion funds for the last financial year for which figures are available. [HL1382]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): In 2006-07, administration costs of £2.2 million were incurred by the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to the European structural and cohesion funds.
Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 18 December (WA 119121) concerning the public engagements of the Secretary of State for Scotland, why they provided information on the public engagements of the Secretary of State for Defence and those of the Minister of State for Scotland. [HL1180]
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: As the defence and Scotland diaries and public engagements of my right honourable friend are closely co-ordinated, it was considered appropriate to cover both portfolios in the response.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 7 January (HL950), why the reply given did not state in what proportions the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Secretary of State for Wales, Mr Peter Hain, MP, has divided his time between those two offices. [HL1181]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend often deals with business from both departments regardless of where he is physically located at the time. It is therefore not possible accurately to determine the proportion of time he has devoted to his duties as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and as Secretary of State for Wales by analysis of his diaries. Therefore the information requested is not available.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): There is no overarching plan for reducing the risk of cerebral palsy. While improvements in the management of pregnancy and childbirth have reduced the incidence of cerebral palsy in babies born after 37 weeks gestation, this is offset to some extent by increases in the survival rates of babies of very low gestational ages, for whom the risk of developing cerebral palsy is greater.
In addition, the Medical Research Council is funding the national perinatal epidemiology unit (NPEU) to conduct an 18-month trial, known as the TOBY trial, to look at the possibility of preventing cerebral palsy by cooling the bodies of some babies in a high-risk group. The trial will be finished in mid-2008 and NPEU is expecting to publish a report at the end of 2008.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 18 December 2007 (WA 1235), why it took until that date to reply to a Question due for answer on 20 November; on what date the Department of Health's head of blood policy first saw the letter sent by the department which was drafted using information supplied by [its] blood policy team to Mrs Harriet Bullock of Southwold, Suffolk, the widow of a haemophilia patient infected with contaminated NHS blood products; on what date or dates the 11 other correspondents who had written to the department received the same impression as Mrs Bullock; and who, with what consequences, has been held responsible, in the words of the department's letter of apology to Mrs Bullock, for the unfortunate wording of the previous letter to her. [HL1323]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My earlier reply could not be made sooner than 18 December. I cannot add much to my earlier replies of 23 October and 18 December on this subject. However, I can confirm that Mrs Bullock's letter of 22 August, when received on 24 August, was treated as a Freedom of Information request and allocated to the Freedom of Information team for reply. Mrs Bullock's letter was copied to the head of the blood policy team on 29 August. The replies to 11 other correspondents using similar wording were sent on 16 August, 20 August, 21 August, 23 August (5 replies), 24 August and 30 August (2 replies). All have received a further reply clarifying our position.
I can assure the noble Lord that no criticism of Lord Archer was ever intended in any departmental correspondence. This has been made clear to Lord Archer and to all those who received similar letters on this subject.
What assessment they have made of the effectiveness of using hydroxyl radical generators which reproduce the disinfecting qualities of open air in railway carriages, buses, and other crowded places in reducing the spread of diseases in the event of a flu pandemic. [HL1039]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The Rapid Review Panel (RRP), convened by the Health Protection Agency at the request of the department, has evaluated some systems that generate hydroxyl radicals for air and surface decontamination purposes. Two of these products have demonstrated significant promise for outbreak situations to decontaminate wards which have been emptied of all staff/patients. Since the initial recommendation the department has held discussions with the two companies involved regarding improvements which have been made to their product since the initial RRP review. As a result, one of the products has been used within the National Health Service, and the department is pursuing discussions regarding the products uptake in the NHS.
This conclusion of usefulness for decontaminating wards could potentially be transferable to the decontamination of other enclosed spaces such as railway carriages and so on, which can be emptied of people and sealed during the decontamination process. Safety concerns surrounding the hydroxyl radicals mean that the systems are not deemed appropriate for use while members of the public are actually located in the spaces to be decontaminated. However, despite the in vitro data on flu viruses, data demonstrating a reduction in influenza transmission are lacking.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): The department published the first ever national cross-government strategy on health inequalities in England, Tackling Health Inequalities: A Programme for Action in 2003. This strategy laid the foundation for meeting the 2010 national health inequalities target on infant mortality and life expectancy and achieving a long-term sustainable reduction in health inequalities.
The Secretary of State set out his intention to launch a new comprehensive strategy for reducing health inequalities in Our NHS, Our Future: NHS Next Stage Review Interim Report in October 2007. This strategy will succeed the programme for action. A review to develop this strategy is in hand and will report this year.
Regular status reports are published against the programme for action covering the national health inequalities target and a range of cross-government headline indicators. The most recent published report is Tackling Health Inequalities: Status Report on the Programme for Action2006 Update of Headline Indicators. A copy has been placed in the Library. The next report for 2007 will also include a breakdown of progress against the 82 departmental commitments included in the programme for action. It is due out later this year.
When they intend to eliminate mixed-sex wards, other than in intensive care units, in NHS hospitals, bearing in mind the Prime Minister's aspiration that the National Health Service meets the demands and needs of the individual. [HL1403]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Guidance issued to the National Health Service requires the provision of single sex accommodation, not wards, which can take a number of forms. NHS trusts may provide single rooms, single sex bays within a mixed ward, single-sex wards or combinations of these types. We do not collect information on the number of trusts which have mixed-sex wards per se.
There will always be occasions when the need to treat and admit takes priority over complete segregation. Hospitals will not turn patients away just because the right sex bed is not immediately available.
Single-sex accommodation should be the norm for elective care, and remains the ideal for all admissions. We have made this clear in this year's operating framework, which charges primary care trusts with setting and publishing stretching local plans for improvement in this area.
Whether the proposed policy of Northumberland Care Trust of funding cuts of up to 25 per cent for rural general practitioners is in line with any national guidance or criteria for care at home; and [HL1172]
What effect the proposed policy of Northumberland Care Trust of disbanding and relocating rural primary healthcare teams will have on healthcare provision in rural areas; and whether the care trust's policy is in line with national guidance or criteria; and [HL1173]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): It is appropriate that the Northumberland Care Trust reviews its personal medical services (PMS) contracts to ensure value for money. All primary care organisations in the north-east are looking to ensure that contracts deliver value.
The proposals that have been brought forward by the Northumberland Care Trust are not about closing individual practices. The aim of these proposals is to ensure the continuity of the existing general practitioner (GP) services and subject to agreement being reached this will set a good foundation for the further development of primary care services for the benefit of patients across Northumberland.
PMS contracts, including the terms of these contracts, are negotiated locally between primary care trusts and GP practices. It would not be appropriate for the department to become involved in these local negotiations. However, if a practice is unhappy with any of the proposed terms of the contract that is being offered to it, it can raise this through the contractual dispute resolution processes that are set out in legislation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Action to tackle obesity in both adults and children, and to meet the long-term ambition to reduce the proportion of obese and overweight children to 2000 levels by 2020, will be taken forward though the new cross-government obesity strategy, building on the evidence in the Foresight report, Tackling Obesity: Future Choices. The strategy will be published on 23 January 2008 and outlines resources commitments to implement the proposed actions. Many of the areas of action in the strategy cannot be tackled successfully by the Government alone. Therefore, the Government will support ongoing debate on action that everyone in society must take if we are to achieve the new ambition.
Lord Darzi of Denham: Guidelines for local areas on effective treatment interventions for obese and overweight adults and children have previously been set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The Government are publishing an obesity strategy on 23 January 2008 which includes specific steps further to encourage the development and provision of more evidence-based interventions and to build this evidence base further.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): Since the publication of Sickle Cell Disease in Childhood: Standards and Guidelines for Clinical Care, the department has been working with a range of key stakeholders to develop a model of 10 proposed managed clinical networks to ensure that the potential benefits of the antenatal and neonatal screening programme are achieved. The clinical network will build on existing expertise to allow access to comprehensive care to be available across the country.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): There are currently no plans in place to use biofuels as part of the energy mix to heat the House of Lords portion of the parliamentary estate. The boilers that generate heating to the buildings consume natural gas and there are presently no alternative piped supplies. It is theoretically possible to generate methane gas onsite by passing organic waste through an anaerobic digester but this has been determined as impracticable for the parliamentary estate, mainly because of the small quantity of organic waste arising from the kitchens and the lack of space to locate a digester. For future boiler replacement, biomass systems will be considered as part of a range of sustainable options.
Whether the option of employing heat pump technology, using the River Thames, has been investigated for a potential contribution to the heating system of the House of Lords' portion of the parliamentary estate. [HL1413]
The Chairman of Committees: Recent studies considering all sustainability options for the building services of the palace discounted the option of using heat pump technology from the River Thames for the primary heating to the palace. This was principally because the means of distributing the heat around the palace is by steam, which would be very difficult and disproportionately uneconomic to generate using heat pump technology.
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