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Written Parliamentary Questions: 25th April 2006

Non-Emergency Situations
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria he used in deciding that (a) drug dealing, (b) drunken behaviour, (c) harassment and (d) intimidation should be treated as non-emergency situations; and if he will make a statement.(John Hemming)

A:My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not be making a statement as the criteria for what constitutes an emergency or non-emergency situation is an operational matter for which the Association of Chief Police Officers have existing standards for call handling in police contact centres that include definitions of emergency and non-emergency contacts. 101, the new single non-emergency number, complies with these standards and will work alongside 999 and other non-emergency numbers to provide a service for less urgent community safety and antisocial behaviour problems.

101 operators will direct callers to the emergency service if the call requires a 999 response. A non-emergency situation will also require an immediate priority response if the situation relates to serious criminal conduct or concern for somebody's safety even if the situation is not considered an emergency.

The initial scope of the 101 service has been developed through research with the general public, and in consultation with a wide group of stakeholders and local authority and police force partnerships.

The core service will cover:

Vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property;

Noisy neighbours;

Intimidation and harassment;

Abandoned vehicles;

Rubbish and litter, including fly tipping;

People being drunk or rowdy in public places;

Drug related antisocial behaviour; and

Street lighting.

The new service will improve the delivery of these services by providing a more informed and better coordinated response by local agencies. 101 will be provided by local authorities and police forces working in partnership to both handle calls and deliver services. (Hazel Blears, Minister of State (Policing, Security and Community Safety), Home Office).

Pharmacies
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health:

(1) what estimate she has made of the funds received by pharmacies as a result of the difference between the price paid for drugs by (a) the Prescription Pricing Authority and (b) pharmacists in each financial year since 2000–01; and what estimate she has made of the funds received in (i)2005–06 and (ii) 2006–07;

(2) which 10 drugs contributed most to the total funding of pharmacies because of the difference between the price paid by the pharmacies and the price paid by the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA) in each year since 2000–01; what estimate she has made of the total funding from that source in the next two financial years; and what the price paid was by (a) the pharmacy and (b) the PPA for each of those 10 drugs. (John Hemming)

A:There was a survey to measure the margin on drugs available to community pharmaceutical contractors (the discount inquiry) in October 2000. The discount inquiry asked a random sample of pharmacy contractors what prices they had paid for a sample of medicines including rebates from suppliers. As a result of this survey, the claw-back used to calculate reimbursement prices paid to pharmacists was increased by about 0.6 per cent., depending on size of pharmacy, from an average of about 10.6 per cent. to 11.2 per cent. Under the terms of its agreement between the Department and the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee, the data used in the discount inquiry remain confidential.

Although there have been no discount inquiries since 2000, the Department has monitored drug prices using market information from manufacturers and wholesalers. As a result of this, and following a public consultation paper, the Department reduced the reimbursement prices of four recently out of patent medicines on two occasions: the first with effect from December 2003 and the second with effect from September 2004. In total, this reduced the retained margins available to community pharmacy contractors by £300 million per annum.

When the current community pharmacy contractual framework was implemented in April 2005, the amount of retained margins in England was assessed as £500 million per year. This money is an integral part of the total of £1,766 million agreed during the contract negotiations, and will help to pay for services to patients. The Department is currently undertaking surveys of community pharmacy contractor invoices to determine the current amount of retained margin available to pharmacy contractors. If the current survey shows that total retained margins differ substantially from £500 million, the Department will make adjustments by varying reimbursement prices or the claw-back to bring it in line with the sum agreed as part of the contractual framework. The Department will continue to assess the level of retained margin but does not believe it is realistic to prepare forecasts as the actual sums retained will be determined by the market prices for generic medicines which can change significantly over time.

From a survey in October 2005, the 10 drug presentations that contributed most to the total funding of pharmacies due to the difference between the price paid by the pharmacies and the price paid by the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA) were as in the following table.

Drug presentation PPA reimbursement price,
October 2005
Simvastatin tablets 40mg, pack size 28 4.14
Simvastatin tablets 20mg, pack size 28 1.79
Omeprazole capsules enteric coated 20mg, pack size 28 10.59
Amlodipine tablets 5mg, pack size 28 5.48
Citalopram Hydrobromide tablets 20mg, pack size 28 2.59
Amlodipine tablets l0mg, pack size 28 7.96
Pravastatin Sodium tablets 40mg, pack size 28 3.33
Ramipril capsules l0mg, pack size 28 2.78
Gabapentin capsules 300mg, pack size 100 53.26
Ramipril capsules 5mg, pack size 28 2.55

When assessing the prices paid by the PPA, it is important to note that there is a claw-back such that the reimbursement to pharmacies is reduced currently by 6 per cent. to 12.5 per cent., depending on the size of the pharmacy; this reduction is not allowed for in the table.

Disclosure of prices paid by pharmacy contractors for the purchase of these medicines might prejudice co-operation in future and make it impossible to undertake these surveys, and hence make the monitoring of total payments under the pharmacy contract very difficult. (Jane Kennedy, Minister of State (Quality and Patient Safety), Department of Health)

National Blood Service
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the National Blood Service uses predictive dialling. (John Hemming)

A:The National Blood Service, an operational division on National Health Service Blood and Transplant, uses predictive dialling. (Caroline Flint, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health), Department of Health)

Council Tax
Q:To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the values were for (a) the assumed national Council Tax before floors and ceilings and (b) Council Tax at standard spending in each year since 1997–98; and for what reason these figures have increased at a rate beyond that of inflation.(John Hemming)

A:The following table gives the Council Tax for Standard Spending for the years 1997–98 to 2002–03 and the Assumed National Council Tax for the years 2003–04 to 2005–06.

Council Tax for standard spending/assumed national council tax £
1997–98 593.09
1998–99 634.62
1999–00 664.88
2000–01 695.54
2001–02 730.89
2002–03 769.16
2003–04 1,037.46
2004–05 1,061.46
2005–06 1,101.96

Both of these measures were simply the calculation of the assumed national council tax used within the formula grant calculations, and depended on the total of Standard Spending Assessments or Formula Spending Shares, the amount of Revenue Support Grant and the distributable amount of business rates, and the number of band-D equivalent properties in England.

The large increase between 2002–03 and 2003–04 reflects the change to the Formula Spending Share system. The totals for Formula Spending Shares were set at approximately the level of spending by authorities, and thus the assumed national council tax was reset to a level nearer to the actual national average band-D council tax. (Phil Woolas, Minister of State (Local Government), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)

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