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Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about the meaning of accredited training in relation to Minimum Standard 9.7 for homes for older people and Minimum Standard 20.10 for homes for younger adults. 
Jacqui Smith: The administration of medication within care homes is a major responsibility and should not be undertaken lightly, since inappropriate administration could result in harm or, in some instances, the death of a service user. In this respect care home providers, therefore, must ensure that any staff who are charged with the responsibility to administer medication must fully understand the seriousness of this task, are trained in safe practices, and also have some awareness of the side effects of drugs on service users. The Commission is currently considering what forms of accredited training would be acceptable, but in the first instance, would suggest that training supplied by local pharmacists and community nurses would be acceptable.
Jacqui Smith: The National Care Standards Commission takes 'regular contact with residents' to mean where a member of staff employed by the care home routinely interacts with residents on a one-to-one basis as part of their employment. This interaction may be restricted to talking to residents, but generally the commission will take it to mean where an individual is
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providing specific forms of care to a resident, such as personal care, nursing care, counselling and general support.
The staff having regular contact with residents will also vary from home to home. A range of internal and external people are likely to have regular contact with residents. This could include care staff, ancillary workers, volunteers and management staff, social workers and specialist health care professionals.
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) for what reasons the Care Home Regulations make no reference to a requirement for a business and financial plan as specified in the National Minimum Standard for homes for older people 34.5; 
Jacqui Smith: The care homes regulations and the national standards are related but they are not the same. There are, therefore, differences in the language and level of detail they contain. The regulations set out in general terms mandatory requirements with which care homes must comply. The national standards are an assessment tool which the commission must take into account when it makes a decision about whether a care home conforms to the regulations. However, the commission may also take into account any other factors it considers reasonable or relevant to do so. The regulations do not, therefore, specifically refer to business and financial plans.
The regulations and standards do not specify what must be contained in a care home's business and financial plans. In deciding whether a care home's business and financial plans conform to the requirements, the commission will need to satisfy itself that they contain sufficient information to ensure that service users are safeguarded by the accounting and financial procedures of the home.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what companies and organisations have expressed an interest in being involved in the private finance initiative for the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth; when he expects to make a decision on which of these will be involved; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Hutton: The bidding process is still under way, but I am advised by Portsmouth Hospitals National Health Service Trust that three organisations were chosen to go through to the next stage. These were: The Hospital Company, Key Health Services and Summit Healthcare. I cannot, at this time, confirm when the bidding process will be completed.
The time scale for a final decision is a matter for the trust itself. The final business case has not yet been submitted because the bidding process is not complete. The cost for the private finance initiative, specified at the outline business case stage, was an estimate and would be
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Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 11 July 2002, Official Report, column 1209W, on doctors (suspensions), for what reasons absence or special leave or gardening leave are not included in official statistics; and what guidance is issued to NHS trusts on (a) staff suspensions and (b) placing staff on special or gardening leave. 
Mr. Hutton: The process of formal monitoring of suspensions lasting over six months began in March 1995, six months after the issue of HSG(94)49, the current guidance on suspension of hospital and community medical and dental staff.
As a result of an undertaking to the Public Accounts Committee in April 1995, the Department monitors formal suspensions lasting over six months on a quarterly basis. This has enabled the financial implications of those suspensions to be monitored and helped to ensure that individual cases are being actively managed.
Information on special leave is collected on an ad hoc basis when concerns are raised. No official guidance has been issued on the use of special or gardening leave. In December 2001, the Chief Medical Officer wrote to all national health service trusts requesting information regarding the use of this type of leave. This information is currently being analysed.
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when his Department intends to answer the letter of the hon. Member for North Norfolk of 1 March, in relation to Kelling Park Nursing Home. 
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will reply to the letter of 20 March 2002 from the hon. Member for Totnes regarding Mrs. B. A. Bence of Kingsbridge, Devon, a constituent. 
Jacqui Smith: Under the national health service contract, digital hearing aids had been available at a cost of between £140 and £205 each, for moderately powered aids. The contracts and prices have been renegotiated by a team set-up by Ministers and led by James Strachan, Chief Executive of Royal National Institute for the Deaf, which includes representatives from the Department and the Purchasing and Supply Agency (PASA), and allows moderate powered digital aids to be purchased at £65 to £75 each plus value added tax (VAT).
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate his Department has made of the shortfall of social workers in (a) Portsmouth, (b) Hampshire and (c) the South East; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: The Government set a target in October 2001 to reduce the number of acute hospital beds blocked at any one time by 1,000, by 31 March 2002. In March 2001 there were 5,938 beds blocked by the over-75s, and at the end of March this year 4,691 were blocked.
The Government will shortly be consulting on its plans, first announced in, "Delivering the NHS Plan", to introduce a system of charges for delays where people are ready for discharge and are awaiting social services input.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to implement the recommendations of the Audit Commission's reports, "Fully Equipped" and "Fully Equipped Two"; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: The Government are progressing their programme to improve equipment services for older and disabled people, and in doing so, are taking fully into account the recommendations made by the Audit Commission in its two reports on the subject.
Jacqui Smith: The Government are progressing their programme to improve equipment services for older and disabled people and, in doing so, are taking fully into account the recommendations made by the Audit Commission in its two reports on the subject, "Fully Equipped", published in March 2000, and "Fully Equipped Two".
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