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NHS Magazine Website

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost is of maintaining the NHS Magazine website per annum. [24578]

Ms Blears: The NHS Magazine online was started in February 2001. It had set-up costs of £5,875 and has running costs of £51,000 a year. NHS Magazine online carries all the content of NHS Magazine plus two extra features and twice-weekly news updates for NHS staff.

Redwood Unit

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the ratio of public to private staff is for work carried out at the Redwood unit on behalf of the NHS; [24587]

Mr. Hutton: The detailed arrangements for operation of the BUPA Redwood facility as a diagnostic and treatment centre for national health service patients are currently in development between BUPA and the Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. It is not possible to say at this stage what the ratio of public to private staff will be or how the facilities will be used for NHS patients. This information will be made available prior to commencement of the new arrangements. Human Resource issues are of paramount importance in the development of this concept, and the trust will be working closely with the Department to ensure that the most appropriate arrangements are agreed.

We are also committed to ensuring that NHS patients treated at BUPA Redwood receive a high standard of treatment.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on expenditure on reviewing of out-patient appointments by general practitioners in the last 12 months. [24602]

Mr. Hutton: Out-patient appointments are routinely reviewed to ensure that all patients on the waiting list still require appointments. Some general practitioners, in partnership with national health service trusts, assist in validating out-patient lists in this way. Arrangements for doing this are made at local level.

Data are not collected on the cost to GPs of carrying out this validation.

Departmental Sickness Absence

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will commission and publish an independent report on the reasons for the level of sickness absence in his Department. [26970]

Ms Blears: The Cabinet Office already commissions and publishes an independent annual report "Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service". The report includes details of the causes of absenteeism. The report for the year 2000 will be published shortly.

24 Jan 2002 : Column 1079W

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many days were lost through sickness absence in his Department in each of the last four years. [26945]

Ms Blears: The information requested is shown in the table.

Average(26) days lost per employee through sickness
(per staff year)

2000not yet published

(26) Working days absences exclude weekends and bank holidays for staff working a 'Monday to Friday' week.

(27) Based on pre-audit data and methodology. In 1998 Civil Service departments and agencies undertook an audit of their monitoring systems following the "Working Well Together" report. The re-worked figures were not submitted in time for publication of the 1998 report and unadjusted figures were published in this year.


Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service BMI Health Services report (1997 Table I, 1998 Table K) and Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service BIOSS report Table H (1999)

Family Pharmacies

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his Department is doing to safeguard local family pharmacies; and if he will make a statement. [26931]

Ms Blears: Our programme for pharmacy in the national health service is set out in "Pharmacy in the Future—Implementing the NHS Plan", a copy of which is available in the Library. We are committed to continuing to ensure ready access to community pharmacies throughout the country. Special arrangements are in place to support pharmacies which dispense relatively few prescriptions, but which are more than one kilometre from the next pharmacy. These may qualify for subsidy payments under the Essential Small Pharmacies Scheme to bring their income from NHS services up to a target level.

Patient Telephone System

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of privately provided patient telephone systems charge premium rates for incoming calls; and what guidance has been given on the provision of these services to trusts. [27229]

Ms Blears: Of the 59 schemes currently installed and operating in the national health service, 56 are with the two firms that charge full premium rate.

The model concession agreement includes an agreed pricing structure covering all the services provided. All the licensees have declared their policy structure over the period of the contract and the patient power steering group, led by NHS Estates, has agreed the proposals. These represent the maximum the licensee can charge. There are provisions within the agreement for local negotiation.

We are working with suppliers to continually improve the service, including incoming call charges.

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Infertility Treatment

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the review of infertility treatment available across the NHS will be published by NICE; and how long the review has taken to date. [27616]

Yvette Cooper: Following an announcement of a new clinical guideline work programme, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence draws up a timetable for each guideline. The commencement of work on individual guidelines is staged according to available capacity in the institute's collaborating centres. The collaborating centre on women's and children's health is about to begin the development of the infertility guideline. I understand that the development of a clinical guideline usually takes up to two years.

Blood Donors

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) for what reason identity cards given to blood donors are not recognised in areas other than where they are issued; [27281]

Yvette Cooper: Three National Blood Service (NBS) databases of blood donor details covering London and the south east, the midlands and the south west and the north and north Wales were established reflecting the original NBS zonal structure. Donors are currently unable to use their identity card outside the region served by their database. However, they can still give blood in another region if they register as a new donor.

The NBS plan to introduce a national donor register from April 2004. This will enable donors to use their identity card in any NBS session in England and north Wales. There are no plans to integrate the registers for the four United Kingdom blood services.

Air Pollution

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of (a) deaths of vulnerable people, (b) hospital admissions and (c) readmissions in the Buckinghamshire health authority area in the last 12 months, which may be associated with (i) short and (ii) long term air pollution. [27783]

Ms Blears: The Buckinghamshire health authority have no patients classified on admission or death under the International Classification of Diseases code z58.1 (exposure to air pollution).

Two Shires Ambulance NHS Trust

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether Two Shires Ambulance NHS trust met its performance targets for responding to (a) Category A and (b) Category B/C emergency calls in each year since 1997; [27786]

24 Jan 2002 : Column 1081W

Ms Blears: Information about the number of emergency calls and the proportion of emergency calls resulting in an ambulance arriving at the scene of a reported incident within the Government's target response time, for both the Two Shires Ambulance national health service trust and all other ambulance trusts in England, is contained in the Department of Health Statistical Bulletin "Ambulance Services, England 2000–01". A copy is in the Library and available on the Department's website at

Following a review of standards in 1996 ambulance services were required to introduce systems to prioritise emergency calls. Two Shires Ambulance NHS trust moved to the new system from 1 April 1998. In 1998–99 and each year since then Two Shires has met and exceeded the target for Category B calls—95 per cent. within 19 minutes (rural service target).

On Category A calls the trust has been making steady progress towards the target of 75 per cent. within eight minutes. Details of performance are in the statistical bulletin.

The Two Shires Ambulance NHS trust is expected to achieve the 75 per cent. target for Category A this year.

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