Recent Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Answered 16th January 2015

Cheryl Gillan MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what his Department’s policy is on the long-term use of locum consultants to run dermatology services in England.

Dr Daniel Poulter: The Department expects National Health Service organisations to have a strong grip on their workforce planning and management across all their specialties including dermatology, making permanent appointments to consultant posts wherever possible. Via Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and the Care Quality Commission, the Department is working with the NHS to reduce trusts’ reliance on temporary staffing including the long term use of locum consultants.

Cheryl Gillan MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many consultant dermatologists with (a) permanent contracts, (b) agency contracts and (c) other contractual or financial arrangements worked in the NHS on 13 January 2015.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many vacant consultant dermatologist posts there were in the NHS on 13 January 2015.

Dr Daniel Poulter: Information on vacancies is not collected by the Department. The last annual National Health Service vacancy survey in England was undertaken by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in 2010. The survey was suspended in 2011 and then discontinued in 2013 following the publication of the Fundamental Review of Data Returns, which aimed to reduce the burden of the collection of data from NHS organisations.

Information on the number of consultant dermatologists who hold agency contracts and other contractual or financial arrangements is not held by the Department

The latest annual workforce census data, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), shows there were 486 directly employed consultant dermatologists working in the NHS in England as at 30 September 2013.

The next census will be published by the HSCIC on the 25 March 2015 and will provide data for September 2014.

Cheryl Gillan MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many consultant dermatologist training posts have been funded in each financial year since 2010; and what assessment he has made of the sufficiency of that number.

Dr Daniel Poulter: Health Education England (HEE) has commissioned 177 specialty training places in dermatology in 2014/15 and intends to maintain this number in 2015/16.

Data on the volume of training places commissioned by strategic health authorities in the period before 2014/15 is not available.

HEE is responsible for workforce planning and education commissioning activity to ensure that the National Health Service in England has available a future workforce in the right numbers, with the right skills, values and behaviours this includes dermatologists.

HEE has recently published its second national workforce plan for England for the period 2015/16 which is built upon the needs of local employers, commissioners and other stakeholders who, as members of Local Education Training Boards have shaped the 13 local plans that are the foundation of the national plan for England. The priorities in the plan are the priorities of the NHS, identified locally and nationally by employers, colleges and other stakeholders.

Answered 12th January 2015

Sir Paul Beresford MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to curb excessive disparities in the cost of dispensing (a) dermatology and (b) non-dermatology preferred unlicensed dermatological preparations; and what steps he is taking to ensure that all pharmacies in England obtain a whole-of-market quote from manufacturers of such preparations, as is the case in Scotland.

Dr Daniel Poulter: The Drug Tariff sets out what National Health Service dispensing contractors will be paid for the products supplied as part of providing pharmaceutical services and the fees for providing those services in primary care.

The current arrangements for paying for unlicensed medicines were introduced in 2011. These arrangements, unlike the ones for Scotland, do not require pharmacy contractors to obtain a whole-of-market quote from manufacturers. However, the Drug Tariff sets the price that the NHS pays to dispensing contractors for dispensing many of the most popular specials. Setting a reimbursement price, applied to all contractors, stops disparity of payment for these products and encourages dispensing contractors to obtain best value for the NHS, while also ensuring patients receive the medicines they need, when they need them. Due to the number of unlicensed medicines that can potentially be prescribed, it is not possible to list a reimbursement price for all available specials.

Where the reimbursement price of a product has not been set, dispensing contractors are paid according to how the product is sourced. Where a dispensing contractor buys the product from a specials manufacturer or an importing company, they must claim the invoice price of the pack size used to dispense the product minus any discounts or rebates received.

NHS England is responsible for commissioning pharmaceutical services in primary care and it is for NHS England to consider whether dispensing contractors have acted appropriately, including excessive claims for payment made by contractors. In addition, the General Pharmaceutical Council is responsible for regulating the pharmacy professions should there be any concerns of professional misconduct.