Italy is the biggest user of the NHS among European countries, spending £3.1m in 1998-99 on referring patients to the NHS for treatment. Ireland spent just under £3m on planned NHS treatment; a further £3.5m was claimed back by the NHS for treating Irish citizens on an unplanned basis. Overall, the UK claimed £18.9m in 1998-99 from European Economic Area countries under EU bilateral cost reimbursement arrangements.

(Hansard, 24 November, column 143) The national beds inquiry set up by former health secretary Frank Dobson in October 1998 is 'nearing completion', and its findings will be published 'in due course', said health minister John Denham. The inquiry will establish guidance on the numbers and mix of beds in new hospitals and reorganisations of existing units.

(Hansard, 29 November, column 75)