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This comprehensive plan has been formulated within the context of the agency's ongoing remit to lead the modernisation of the NHS purchasing and supply function. The agency has a strategic role to set out a major development agenda for purchasing and supply in the NHS and working with the commercial directorate has developed a co-ordinated implementation plan for doing so. The business plan sets out clearly how the agency will achieve these aims.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): The 200405 business plan for the Medicines And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has today been presented to Parliament. The plan contains the agency's key targets for the year.
The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): The Chairman of the Independent Regulator of NHS foundation trusts has today announced that, in accordance with section 6 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, the Independent Regulator has authorised the following NHS trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 April 2004:
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The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): Today I am making changes to the immigration rules that enable participants on the sectors based scheme (SBS) to extend their leave in the UK to those people whose original permit was for less than the maximum period of 12 months. Permits can be issued for a maximum of 12 months, but in many cases they are shorter. One of the key aspects of the SBS is that participants who have been granted leave for less than one year, and whom the employer wants to retain, can extend their leave, in country, for the remainder of the 12 months that the initial leave did not cover. As hon. Members already know, from 1 April there will also be a new charge of £121 for those who wish to extend their leave under the sectors based scheme. This charge may be picked up by the employer.
This procedure has been operating administratively since the launch of the scheme, and the changes to the immigration rules will simply put extensions of stay on SBS on a firmer footing within the rules.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): The Home Secretary and I are determined to reduce the incidence of suicide within prisons. These tragic deaths devastate families and deeply distress both prisoners and staff. We are also committed to tackling the related but separate issues that arise from self-harm.
The ministerial roundtable on suicides, which I chair, includes representatives from the Prison Reform Trust, the Howard League for Penal Reform, Samaritans and Inquest; from HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Independent Monitoring Boards and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman; from the Prison Service, the National Probation Service and the Department of Health; and from prisoners themselves. The roundtable brings together a wide range of expertise that has helped to influence and support the current suicide prevention strategy launched in 2001. More recently, it has helped with the development of a strategy for the longer term and I am grateful for its important contributions.
I pay tribute to the relentless efforts of staff to save lives. Last year staff resuscitated over 211 prisoners who had made serious attempts at self-harm. In 87 of 138 prisons there were no self-inflicted deaths in 200304. The suicide rate (per 100,000 of average prisoner population) is 9 per cent lower than it was in 19992000, and the three-year rolling rate has stabilised at about 128 per 100,000.
Sadly, there are large numbers of people in prison with characteristics that contribute to a risk of suicide. These include problems with mental health, drugs and drink, troubled relationships and social exclusion, as well as a previous history of self-harm and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Identifying and caring for these prisoners is very challenging work, not least as they represent over half the prison population. It is important to note, however, that prisoners have similar rates of suicide to offenders in the community.
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Central to the suicide prevention strategy that I am announcing today is the need to reduce the level of distress in prison and promote the well being of all staff and prisoners. This applies both to public and privately contracted prisons. We intend to build on current good practice and continue with the commitment of the Prison Service to treat prisoners with decency and dignity. This approach has strong support from Roundtable members and from other external organisations.
This approach forms part of the Government's national strategy for reducing suicides in the community, and is being developed in partnership with the Department of Health, which is increasingly responsible for improving health care standards in prisons. This includes the provision of mental health services as well as substance abuse interventions and maintenance programmes.
The approach is evidence based. The final evaluation of the safer local prisons programme is due in the summer. Emerging findings from the research undertaken by Dr. Alison Liebling of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology indicate that levels of distress in a prison correlate closely with suicide rates. The revised strategy will therefore concentrate on measures likely to reduce distress and promote the well-being of prisoners and staff. We will build on our existing programme which includes work on resettlement, drugs detoxification and continuing care and support, staff care and welfare, healthcare, purposeful activity, staff and managementoutlook, leadership and training.
Alongside our plans to improve the quality of prison life for both prisoners and staff, we will also target additional support for the most vulnerable. Research findings underline the importance and effectiveness of a number of specific measures. These include the appointment of suicide prevention co-ordinators in prisons; the development of in-reach mental health provision and day care centres; good case reviews; and appropriate first night centre and induction procedures.
Our strategy will include specific interventions to identify those most at risk. In January five establishments began to pilot a new assessment procedure that will be reviewed later in 2004. We will continue to put in place safer cells and other changes to the physical environment in order to minimise impulsive acts of self-harm and suicide.
The integration with the health agenda is crucial. Mental health in-reach to selected prisons and new triage-based, reception health screening arrangements have been linked to the suicide prevention strategy. Between now and March 2006 NHS mental health in-reach investment is expected to double to £20 million
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with in-reach services available in every prison. All local prisons are implementing the new screening system during 2004.
I attach great importance to the contribution that can be made to preventing suicides by learning from what has gone wrong in the past. From 1 April the Government have decided to transfer responsibility for investigating deaths in jails, probation hostels and Immigration and Nationality Directorate detention centres to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. Learning from deaths, and consistently applying those lessons, will be an important strand of the developed strategy.
The strategy that I have outlined above will continue to develop and expand. The National Offender Management Service, which becomes operative in June, will provide a focus on offender management and a wider organisational framework that will boost the work in prisons and facilitate its eventual expansion into offender management in the community.
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