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NHS Dental Practices

26. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many NHS dental practices there are in Pendle and Burnley; and how many are accepting new NHS patients. [3789]

Jacqui Smith: There are 16 national health service dental practices in Pendle, three of which are currently accepting all categories of NHS patients; another (one) practice is accepting children only. Burnley has 12 NHS practices, one of which is accepting NHS patients for dentures only.

37. Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to ensure that NHS dentistry is accessible in all areas. [3800]

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Ms Blears: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is responsible for the provision of dental services in England. Provision of services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the devolved bodies.

In September 1999, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister promised that within two years everyone will be able to access national health service dentistry if and when they want it via NHS Direct. All health authorities in England now have in place dentistry action plans to ensure that everyone in their local area can access NHS dentistry if they want it within a reasonable time and distance. The plans identify shortfalls in service provision and ways of tackling unmet demand.

We have invested over £100 million of additional funding in NHS dentistry in the last two years. Dental access centres offering a complete range of services to unregistered patients, are operating from over 100 sites and more are being developed. Funding has been made available to general dental practitioners to encourage them to treat more NHS patients. In addition regulations have been introduced allowing health authorities to use their own resources to access NHS dentistry tailored to the needs of their local communities.

Information for patients on NHS dentistry via NHS Direct has been available nationally since the end of September. Callers seeking access to NHS dentistry will from now on be provided with information about the availability of NHS dental services within a reasonable distance of their homes.

38. Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the availability of NHS dentists in the rural districts of North Yorkshire. [3801]

Jacqui Smith: Currently there is one dentist in Scarborough Town and another some three miles away in East Ayton accepting new National Health Service patients. There are also dentists in Whitby and Kirkbymoorside accepting new NHS patients. Additional resources have been allocated to a general dental practice in Scarborough to enable it to treat more unregistered NHS patients. The health authority has set up dental access centres in Scarborough, Whitby and York. The demand for these services is high and the health authority is considering expanding these dental access centres.

Health Inequalities

27. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to tackle health inequalities; and if he will make a statement. [3790]

Ms Blears: In the NHS Plan we made a commitment to set national targets for reducing unacceptable inequalities in health which consistently widened under the last Government. In February of this year two new national targets for reducing health inequalities in infant mortality and life expectancy were announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and at present we are consulting widely on the actions necessary to deliver them. Copies of the consultation document, "Tackling Health Inequalities", are available in the Library.

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NHS University

28. Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress with the establishment of a university of the NHS. [3791]

Mr. Hutton: The NHS Plan included a commitment to establish an NHS University for all NHS staff. The recruitment process for a Chief Executive and project team to establish the NHS University has begun. A launch document, which gives more information about the vision for the University, has been published and will be widely circulated within the NHS, and within the academic community.

Cancer Services

29. Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to improve cancer services. [3792]

34. Mr. Purchase: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to improve cancer services. [3797]

Ms Blears: By 2003–04 an additional £570 million will have been invested in cancer care. This money will support the appointment of new consultants; implementation of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance to end the postcode lottery of care; cutting waiting times for cancer and increasing National Health Service investment in specialist palliative care services.

Primary Care Trusts

30. Mr. Pound: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress in the creation of Primary Care Trusts. [3793]

Mr. Hutton: One hundred and sixty four Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are already operational. There are around 150 applications from the remaining Primary Care Groups to become PCTs in April 2002, making PCTs the lead national health service organisations in assessing, planning and securing all health services and improving health.

Radiotherapy Equipment

32. Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the availability of radiotherapy equipment. [3795]

Ms Blears: Investment through the New Opportunities Fund and the NHS Plan will provide 102 linear accelerators for treating cancer. In addition, funding has been made available for radiotherapy treatment planning computers and simulation equipment to support these.

Twenty-eight linear accelerators have been delivered and are expected to be treating patients by the end of the year. By 2004 all of the radiotherapy equipment will be in place.

In addition, 86 MRI scanners and 186 CT scanners will be installed to help in the diagnosis of cancer.

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33. Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many treatments have been provided by osteopaths on the NHS in each year since 1992. [3796]

Ms Blears: Information about the number of osteopathic treatments provided on the national health service is not collected centrally.

General Practitioners

35. Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to publish a new contract for general practitioners. [3798]

Mr. Hutton: We are committed to introducing a new quality-based contract by 2004 and have asked the National Health Service Confederation to negotiate this with the profession. The British Medical Association has indicated that it shares our aim and would like to see earlier implementation. Positive and constructive negotiations will facilitate this.

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the requirement for general practitioners in Huntingdon to take account of anticipated house building in the area until 2011. [6172]

Ms Blears: In response to the anticipated population growth over the next few years Huntingdonshire Primary Care Trust opened a new general practitioner practice in Huntingdon in March of this year. There are currently two GPs in the practice but the building has the capacity to accommodate four GPs. The PCT has planned that this additional capacity will address any increased demand on primary services until 2006.

The development of primary care in Huntingdon beyond 2006 will depend on the outcome of the current study commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the urban planning for Cambridge and its surrounding market towns.

Staff Retention

39. Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to improve the retention of staff working in the professions allied to medicine. [3802]

Mr. Hutton: "Meeting the Challenge" sets out our plans for developing and supporting Allied Health Professions and the central role they have to play in delivering the NHS Plan's key priorities. The NHS Plan also introduced the Improving Working Lives Standard to ensure that NHS employers create well-managed, flexible working environments that support all NHS staff.

Coppice Family Doctor Practice

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will authorise the Coppice family doctor practice in Rustington, West Sussex to replace a full-time partner with two part-time doctors. [6760]

Ms Blears: It is not for Ministers to authorise the appointment of general practitioners. The decision is for the Medical Practices Committee (MPC), an independent, non-departmental statutory body. When a vacancy occurs in general practice it is the responsibility of the partners to fill the vacancy with a GP with the most appropriate

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skills to serve the local population. An application to the MPC has already been refused, but I understand that the submission of a further application is now being considered.

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