First PFI contract for mental health unit signed

Contracts have been signed for the first mental health unit to be built under the private finance initiative. The pounds9m unit and a staff accommodation block will be built on the Littlemoor Hospital site, run by Oxfordshire Mental Healthcare trust. The unit is expected to open in autumn 1999.

A core team of staff will transfer from a 13-bed clinic at Fair Mile Hospital, which will then close. The medium-secure unit will have 30 mental health beds and 10 beds for people with learning disabilities.

Milburn offers secondee to primary care body

Health minister Alan Milburn has offered to second a civil servant to help run the new Primary Care Group Alliance in order to promote closer links between his office and the pro-commissioning body. The offer came last week after the PCG Alliance raised concerns that PCGs would be 'pressured towards trust status'.

England's mental illness costs pounds32bn a year

Total costs associated with mental illness in England amount to pounds32.1bn every year, according to research by the centre for the economics of mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry.

The study says that while NHS services account for pounds4.1bn, social security payments cost pounds7.6bn and lost employment pounds11.8bn. It adds that the estimate is likely to be below the real figure since some data is not available.

Mental Health Research Review 5. Available from Daphne Hargreaves, CEMH, 0171-919 3198. Free.

pounds1 of help for drug misusers saves pounds3 on crime

Every pounds1 spent on drug misuse treatment reduces the cost of crime by pounds3, a report from the first year of the National Treatment Outcome Research Study suggests.

The study is following the progress of more than 1,000 drug misusers and the effects of treatment on their drug use, health, social functioning and criminal activity. Public health minister Tessa Jowell said the report would be an 'important resource' for health authorities and local authorities.

NTORS at One Year. Available from Department of Health, PO Box 410, Wetherby LS23 7LN. pounds4.95.

Top academics join King's Fund

The King's Fund has recruited three leading academics as senior associates.

Professor Rudolf Klein of Bath University and Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics, both of whom are already associated with the King's Fund, are joined by Professor Tony Travers, director of the LSE's Greater London group. Professor Travers will focus on the role of the Greater London Authority in promoting public health and influencing the NHS.

Report shows children avoid talking to health staff

Children are often unwilling to talk to health staff, perceiving doctors as peripheral figures and nurses as too busy, according to the author of a report on children's experiences of the NHS.

Retired paediatrician Sheila Cross said that while health staff viewed treatments for asthma and diabetes as a passport to a normal life, children resented them as a sign of abnormality.

The findings emerge from a study of nearly 2,000 calls to the ChildLine helpline.

'I know you're not a doctor, but...' Children calling ChildLine about health. Available from ChildLine (health), 2nd Floor, Royal Mail Building, London N1 OQW. pounds5.