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Armed Forces (Medical Services)

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent reports he has received on the availability of medical services in the armed forces; and what advice he has received on increasing their availability; [136008]

Ms Stuart: Defence Medical Services (DMS) is responsible for providing medical services in the armed forces. The Department of Health is aware of the report issued by the Ministry of Defence in December 1998 entitled, "Defence Medical Services: A Strategy for the Future" which explained that there are serious workforce shortages in DMS.

At present workforce levels are stabilising and the MOD are exploring new ways of meeting the regular and reserve medical manpower requirements. This work is being undertaken in close consultation with the Department and the National Health Service. For example, the NHS will in future be including DMS' requirements in medical student numbers.

The future strategy for DMS identified a gap at the higher 'strategic' level and closer links have now been established between the MOD and Department with NHS representatives being appointed to the two DMS top management boards. To supplement this activity and to direct work a Joint Steering Group has been established by the MOD and Department with the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Office also represented.

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Wheelchair Voucher Scheme

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the future of the wheelchair voucher scheme. [136270]

Mr. Hutton: We have asked all wheelchair services to continue to operate a voucher scheme, which offers users a choice of wheelchair to meet their needs. In making the funding for the wheelchair initiatives recurrent from 1 April 2000, we have removed the distinction on what should be spent on National Health Service indoor/outdoor powered wheelchairs and or vouchers. We have asked health authorities and provider services to consult with service users and take a flexible approach to ensuring the money meets local wheelchair needs and priorities.

Prosorba Column

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2000, Official Report, column 86W, on the Prosorba Column, what reports he has received on the effectiveness of the Prosorba Column as a treatment for arthritis. [137086]

Mr. Denham: The Department has not received any reports on the effectiveness of the Prosorba Column as a treatment of arthritis.

Electronic Database

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the progress of the Electronic Record Demonstrator Implementation Programme and progress towards achieving a national electronic health record database; what timescale he is working to; and if he plans to fund the chosen programme from (a) NHS funds, (b) a public-private partnership and (c) other sources. [137273]

Ms Stuart: The Electronic Record Development and Implementation Programme (ERDIP) was launched in November 1999. Following the selection exercise the names of the successful Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Patient Record (EPR) demonstrator sites were announced in April and June 2000 respectively. These have been placed in the Library.

The NHS Information Authority (NHSIA) is currently finalising deliverables, timescales and associated release of funding with each of the individual sites. Detailed Project Initiation Documents will be available on the NHSIA website at once the Project Briefs have been approved.

The work of the demonstrator sites is being supported by three projects managed centrally by the NHSIA:

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The management costs of ERDIP are being funded from the NHSIA's central budget.

In total, (including the £1.7 million), up to £13.1 million from the Modernisation Fund will be used to support the cost of the two-year demonstrator programme. These funds will be used to deliver solutions earlier to the NHS and are in addition to the £132 million allocated for local investment in the implementation of the Strategy in 2000-01. Further sums will be made available to the Service as part of the spending review settlement for the period 2001-04. These will be announced in the autumn as part of the three-year allocations for health authorities.

Departmental Employees (New Deal)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many staff are employed by his Department under the New Deal for Young People. [137961]

Mr. Denham: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 13 November 2000, Official Report, columns 551-52W.

Assaults on Staff

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department about measures to protect NHS staff from assault. [137933]

Mr. Denham: Our campaign to tackle violence against NHS staff, the "NHS zero tolerance zone", has been developed by the Department working with colleagues in the Home Office, Lord Chancellor's Department and in the Crown Prosecution Service.

This cross-Government approach is also reflected in the new national sentencing guidelines which were issued to magistrates courts in September for a wide range of offences. The guidelines now include as aggravating factors, to be taken into account when sentencing, whether the offence occurred in hospital or medical premises and whether the victim was serving the public.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has also met recently with the Home Secretary and other Ministers to discuss the role of the National Health Service in local crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

PACT data

Dr. Brand: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when PACT data were last published; and if he will make a statement. [138031]

Ms Stuart: PACT data are not published but are made available quarterly to health authorities, primary care groups and primary care trusts for their internal use. Data covering the period January to March 2000 were issued in September. The next report covering the quarter April to June is expected to be available by the middle of December.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research his Department has commissioned into the causes and treatment of myalgic encephalomyelitis. [138168]

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Mr. Denham: The most recent project commissioned by the Department is a systematic review to determine the clinical effectiveness of treatments and interventions for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis. The review was commissioned for a working group which is looking at the efficacy of available treatments and interventions for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). The results of this review will inform the final report produced by the CFS/ME Working Group. In addition the National Health Service Health Technology Assessment Programme has recently commissioned a study on the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Prescription Pricing

Jackie Ballard: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the performance of the Prescription Pricing Authority in giving accurate and up-to-date information to primary care groups. [138313]

Ms Stuart: There are currently delays of three months, resulting from the large number of prescriptions which fell within Category D of the Drug Tariff last year. The Prescription Pricing Authority has now begun to clear the backlog and will have completed this task by September next year. Meanwhile the authority is providing monthly forecasts for the availability of Prescription Pricing Authority information reports for the next two-month period to every health authority chief executive and professional adviser, and to every primary care group/trust.

Dental Treatment

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the need for NHS dental treatment in South East Cornwall; and if he will make a statement. [138276]

Mr. Hutton: Demand for National Health Service dentistry remains high throughout Cornwall. We have invested £436,431 for 12 Investing in Dentistry grants, generating up to 37,500 extra registrations with dentists in Cornwall. In addition the personal dental services pilot scheme treats emergency and urgent patients at 20 sites across Cornwall.

On 28 September 1999 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that within two years there would be access to NHS dentistry for everyone who wants it via NHS Direct. The dental strategy, "Modernising NHS Dentistry--Implementing the NHS Plan", published on 19 September 2000, shows how that pledge can be met. The strategy focuses on the areas of access, quality and oral health and is supported by £100 million new funding. Responsibility for dentistry is devolved to health authorities, which will be performance managed on service provision in their area.

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