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Child Abuse

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children's homes in England and Wales that (a) are open and (b) have closed are now under investigation for possible child abuse; and if he will make a statement. [17886]

Jacqui Smith: Information is not collected centrally on the number of children's homes in England that are under investigation for possible child abuse.

Although the number of children's homes in Wales that are involved in such investigations is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales, a survey carried out in 1998–99 on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Crime Committee established that 32 forces in England and Wales had been investigating claims of institutional child abuse or were doing so during

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the period covered by the questionnaire (1 January 1998 to 30 June 1999). Many of the remaining forces stated that they had been engaged in such inquiries at other times.

A similar survey was carried out by ACPO earlier this year to which 32 forces responded. During the period covered by this survey (1997 to 2000) those 32 forces detailed 96 investigations (some of which may have involved more than one institution).

In-patient Treatment

Mr. Alan Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients were waiting (a) more than six months and (b) more than 12 months for in patient treatment in the Newcastle and North Tyneside Health Authority area in (i) March 1997, (ii) September 2001 and (iii) each reporting period in between. [17993]

Jacqui Smith: Information relating to in-patient waiting times in the Newcastle and North Tyneside health authority is shown in the table.

Patients waiting for elective admission, Newcastle and North Tyneside HA, March 1997 to September 2001: Ordinary and day case admissions combined

QuarterTotal waitingOver 6 monthsOver 12 months
March 19978,9321,94947
June 19979,2532,157207
September 19978,9832,305320
December 19979,3152,364357
March 19989,4271,99347
June 19989,1911,85160
September 19988,8471,890121
December 19989,0331,790108
March 19998,2521,56593
June 19998,5981,561108
September 19998,4201,639133
December 19998,7891,765101
March 20007,8911,40785
June 20008,1751,639141
September 20007,7141,722169
December 20007,6491,664162
March 20017,2751,36371
June 20017,2531,384120
September 20016,9451,42255


Department of Health form QF01

External Auditing

Ms Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the total cost of external auditing for the NHS has been in each of the years from 1990–91 to 2000–01. [18068]

Mr. Hutton: The information requested is shown in the table.

Cost of external auditing for the national health service (England)

Cost of external auditOther audit remuneration

(27) The limited information shown for 1990–91 covers only the few organisations which included previous year figures in their 1991–92 accounts.

(28) Data for 2000–01 remain provisional and are subject to continuing audit by the National Audit Office.

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Aircraft Noise

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the maximum outside night-time noise event target of 60 dBu in the World Health Organisation Charter on Environment and Transport includes noise from aircraft. [18439]

Ms Blears: The World Health Organisation guidelines on community noise express maximum noise events as dBA Lmax. The outside night-time noise event target is 60dBA Lmax and does include noise from aircraft.


Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessments he has made of the effectiveness of (a) genetic, (b) pre-conceptual and (c) ante-natal counselling offered by the NHS in relation to (i) sickle cell, (ii) thalassaemia and (iii) other haemoglobinopathies. [18893]

Jacqui Smith: The report of the survey of haemoglobinopathy screening policy and practice in England www-phm.umds/haemscreening/publications published in October this year indicates that few national health service trusts outside high haemoglobinopathy prevalence areas currently use specialist counsellors.

No assessment of the effectiveness of genetic, pre-conceptual and ante-natal counselling in the NHS has been made. However, the NHS Plan makes a commitment to implement effective and appropriate screening programmes for women and children. This commitment includes a new national linked ante-natal and neo-natal screening programme for haemoglobinopathies (sickle cell and thalassaemia) by 2004. The screening programme will look at the issue of counselling as part of its overall remit.

Patient Safety

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on the work of the National Patient Safety Agency; [19057]

Jacqui Smith: The National Patient Safety Agency was established on 2 July 2001 to improve the safety of national health service patients by promoting a culture of reporting and learning from adverse healthcare events. It will establish and operate a national system for reporting, analysing and learning lessons from adverse events and near misses involving national health service patients. The

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National Patient Safety Agency will also provide advice and guidance to assist in the promotion of patient safety in the NHS.

The new reporting system is currently being tested at pilot sites in the following health authorities:


Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research is being carried out into the medical impact of aluminium on the human body (a) via its use as a food packaging material and (b) in terms of its presence in drinking water. [19077]

Ms Blears: The most recently published study by the Food Standards Agency showed that exposures of United Kingdom consumers to aluminium from the typical diet in the UK were well within the provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) established for aluminium in 1989 by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, even for those eating above-average amounts of food. Although general exposures from the diet are low, the Food Standards Agency currently has four research projects to test if there is migration of aluminium into food from, respectively, glazed ceramic ware, paper and board, kitchen ware and glass.

Aluminium in drinking-water is a minor contributor to oral intakes of aluminium in UK consumers.

A wide range of types of research contributes to scientific understanding of the effects of aluminium in humans. There is no comprehensive national or international database of current research on aluminium. The most relevant studies listed in the National Research Register concern the role of aluminium in dementia, clinico-pathological correlates of dementia in Down's syndrome (including aluminium absorption), possible protective effects of selenium and magnesium on the toxicity of aluminium, and a clinical trial of immunotherapy with aluminium hydroxide. The National Research Register is a database of on-going and recently

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completed research projects funded by, or of interest to, the United Kingdom's national health service, and is available at

In addition, the Department and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly health authority are funding continuing studies of health outcomes in relation to the Lowermoor water pollution incident of 1988, in which the principal pollutant was aluminium sulphate at very high concentrations.

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