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Cancelled Operations

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the steps being taken to reduce the number of operations cancelled at short notice. [40827]

Mr. Hutton: From 1 April 2002 any patient whose operation is cancelled by the hospital on the day of surgery for non-clinical reasons will be offered another binding date within a maximum of the next 28 days or can choose to have their treatment funded at the time and hospital of the patient's choice.

On 5 March 2001, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that the NHS Modernisation Agency would be developing good practice in operating theatres and ensure this is spread throughout the NHS. Initial guidance was issued in December 2001. Further guidance to improving operating theatre performance will be published later this year.

In addition, £8.5 million has been made available to assist NHS trusts in reducing cancelled operations. NHS trusts with the greatest challenges will receive £75,000 to fund a full-time manager and support from doctors to tackle the problem. They will have to meet specific targets set by the Modernisation Agency and their performance will be subject to monthly reviews. All other trusts will receive up to £35,000 incentive funding to help them reduce the number of cancelled operations.

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The Government have also taken a number of other steps that will contribute to the reduction of cancelled operations.

A £100 million programme of investment was announced in November 2001. This will contribute to reducing hospital bed occupancy rates by purchasing additional operations in the private sector.

NHS Plan target to have 20,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors, 7,500 more consultants, 2,000 more GPs and 6,500 more therapists and other health professionals by 2004.

Introduction of on-the-spot booking systems to ensure hospitals organise their clinic slots and theatre sessions more productively.

A programme of investment in NHS facilities, including Diagnostic and Treatment Centres, to create additional acute capacity and separate the bulk of routine elective care from competing emergency pressures.

Commissioner for Children

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he plans to introduce a Commissioner for Children in England. [45958]

Jacqui Smith: The Government take the needs of children very seriously and are committed to improving safeguards for children. We are following with interest the developments both in Wales—where a Commissioner has already been appointed—and in Northern Ireland, where a similar course is being followed. We are committed to learning all the lessons from these initiatives that prove relevant to England. We have made major advances through the establishment of the Children and Young People's Unit, and the appointment of Dr. Roger Morgan as the Children's Rights Director and Professor Al Aynsley-Green as the National Clinical Director for Children.

National Care Standards

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people responded to the consultation on national care standards; how many welcomed the introduction of new standards; and how many did so subject to the provision of adequate resources. [41273]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 7 March 2002]: The number of responses to the various consultations on national minimum standards was as follows:

The overwhelming majority of respondents welcomed the introduction of new standards. This included the majority of providers even though they also highlighted the resource implications.

NHS Plan News

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many copies of NHS Plan News were returned for recycling by NHS premises. [42308]

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Yvette Cooper [holding answer 11 March 2002]: As part of the distribution management process for NHS Plan News, all NHS organisations and social service departments were asked to suggest the number of copies likely to be required by that organisation.

Only in the case of distribution errors or changes in requirements did the Department arrange for the return of copies. Amendments to the distribution database were immediate. It was not, therefore, necessary to retain information about copies collected or returned.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment has been made by the NICE on the effectiveness of TNF alpha blockers in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis; [42537]

Jacqui Smith: TNF alpha blockers are available on the national health service (NHS). All licensed medicines are available on the NHS unless they are listed on schedule 10 or 11 to the NHS (General Medical Services) Regulations 1992 which restricts prescribing by GPs.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidance on 22 March 2002, recommending the use in appropriate cases of etanercept for the treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis and etanercept and infliximab for rheumatoid arthritis.

NICE's guidance is available on the internet at or by writing to NICE at 11 Strand, London, WC2N 5HR.

Patients Charter

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Patient's Charter provides commitments to detained patients. [42941]

Jacqui Smith: The Patient's Charter for Mental Health Services applies to services provided by the national health service for people with a mental illness. It includes a section on care under the Mental Health Act summarising the rights of detained patients and drawing attention to the provisions and safeguards laid down within the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Health Code of Practice, which protect patient rights.

Mental Health

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimates he has made of delays in cases waiting for a mental health review tribunal hearing; and how many patients are waiting for a mental health review tribunal hearing. [42938]

Jacqui Smith: The Department is responsible for providing administrative support to the tribunal including the handling of applications and organisation of hearings. Every effort is made to ensure that cases of patients detained under section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 are heard within the statutory time limit of seven days that is set out in the Act. All other applications are scheduled for hearing as soon as possible following receipt. During the period January 2001 to December 2001 20,274 application were received in England and 11,765 hearings

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were held. The difference between the number of applications made and the number of cases heard is accounted for by applicants withdrawing of their own volition, adjournment of hearings on the authority of the regional chairmen, change in status of the patient's detention under the Act or discharge from detention by the responsible medical officer before the date of the hearing. Of 3,646 section 2 cases heard during the period 22 per cent. were disposed of outside the statutory time limit. The average waiting times for hearings are shown in the table.

Average waiting times (January to December 2001)

Section 27.5 days
Non-restricted7.6 weeks
Restricted18.8 weeks

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what funding is allocated to mental health care per capita (a) for patients in prisons and (b) for patients who are not in prison, in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [43557]

Jacqui Smith: The majority of funding for mental health care is allocated as part of health authority general allocations and separate figures for mental health care are not available. It is not therefore possible to provide details of funding allocated to mental health care per capita.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many clinics (a) in London and (b) in England offer electric shock therapy for forms of mental illness. [48868]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested is not held centrally.


Matthew Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans the Government have to improve training and support for families and close friends of people suffering from schizophrenia; [47916]

Jacqui Smith: The National Service Framework for Mental Health (MHNSF), launched in 1999, sets out clear standards for the modernisation of mental health services by setting out new standards for the delivery of specialised assessment, treatment and care.

It covers the main issues for mental health services, for service users, their carers and those working in local health and social care communities, including action on stigma and inequalities in mental health.

In the MHNSF, Standard Six was set to provide support specifically to carers. It states that

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By October 2004, mental health services are expected to have identified and assessed all carers of those people with mental health problems as well as agreeing and implementing their carer support plans. To ensure that the friends and families of those people with mental health problems receive the information they need to support them in their role, the Department has produced a leaflet, "A Commitment to Carers", that informs families and friends what they should expect from mental health services. This leaflet was widely distributed not only to service users and their families but also to mental health services and helps to outline that modern, responsive mental health services need to acknowledge the importance of the support networks that families and friends provide to those people with mental health problems.

The NHS Plan, launched in 2000, states that:

The Department is developing guidelines on a service specification for support of carers of people with mental health problems. These guidelines will be included in the Mental Health Policy Implementation guide by May 2002.

Matthew Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research (a) has been carried out since 1997 and (b) is planned to assess (i) the importance of swift treatment for patients suffering from schizophrenia and (ii) the impact on their recovery of delayed treatment and care; [47924]

Jacqui Smith: The main Government agency for research into the causes of and treatments for disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC) which receives its funding via the Department of Trade and Industry. In 1999–2000 MRC spent £17.6 million on mental health disorders research which includes the investigation, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the whole spectrum of mental health problems ranging from mild depression to severe psychosis.

The Department has funded a number of projects on schizophrenia since 1997.

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Details of all Department of Health funded research are available on the National Research Register (NRR)

A number of initiatives are either in progress or identified for future action. The Department has commissioned a literature review and scoping exercise relating to the early intervention in psychosis for the development of service models. Further primary research in this area may be required. In addition, the Department has also commissioned work in relation to services for women, in-patient care and assertive outreach. Although not explicitly targeting people with schizophrenia, they will clearly also be addressed as part of these studies. Future priorities include dual diagnosis (substance misuse and severe mental illness) and the management of mental health in primary care.

The Department has recently conducted a review of mental health research carried out in the NHS. Future research strategy will take account of the gaps identified.

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