HC Deb 13 November 2001 vol 374 cc709-10
8. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

What plans he has for involving district nurses in profiling the health needs of their community. [12112]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)

District nurses play an important role in profiling the needs of health communities, through their knowledge of local communities and also through their work with individual patients. They will support primary care trusts as part of their responsibility for preparing health improvement plans from 2002. They are also eligible to serve as members of the professional executive committee of primary care trusts. The process for their selection is determined by local nursing colleagues.

Helen Jones

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, as well as playing a major role in improving people's health—allowing them to be maintained in their own homes, and avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions—district nurses, precisely because they work in the community, often have a better idea of its health needs than people sitting in offices elsewhere? Will he ensure not just that district nurses are eligible for involvement in PCTs, but that PCTs make a real effort to consult them when drawing up health improvement programmes and trying to improve primary care? These are the people with a real knowledge of their local communities.

Mr. Hutton

I strongly agree. District nurses do a brilliant job, and will have an increasingly important role to play in the pattern of NHS services that we want to be delivered in future. I certainly want all PCTs to consult fully, and to involve district nurses in the development of their local strategies. We aim to devolve more and more responsibility and power to the front line of the NHS, and I do not think anyone is closer to the front line than district nurses.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

Would the Minister be willing to consult the district nurses of Southend-on-Sea, where, with their encouragement, the John Grooms establishment for severely disabled people carried out a massive, costly improvement to provide separate residential units? It was then hammered by separate rating demands, which increased its rates by 300 per cent. The arrangement has only just started, although I understand that it has now been applied to another establishment in Wells, and will also be operated elsewhere. Will the Government review the law to ensure that homes providing care facilities do not receive separate rating demands? This is a new situation, and the Minister's help would be greatly appreciated.

Mr. Hutton

I am not aware of the situation in Southend, and I am concerned about what the hon. Gentleman has said. If he is prepared to write to me about these matters, I shall take certainly them up with my colleagues in Government.

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