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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will answer the question tabled by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam on 6 November 2001, ref. 13108, concerning beta interferon. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many whole-time equivalent social work staff there were on local authority establishments in each of the last 10 years; and how many of these posts were left unfilled in each year. 
Jacqui Smith: For the numbers of whole-time equivalent social work staff, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) on 18 January 2002, Official Report, column 530W. Information on the number of unfilled social work staff posts is not held centrally.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment her Department has made of the trends in the use made by social services departments of agency staff in each of the last four years. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the latest forecast figures are for (a) underspending or overspending for the present financial year, (b) recurring funding pressures which impact on the 200203 planning round and (c) deficits in the local health economy in each health authority in London submitted to the London regional office. 
Jacqui Smith: The National Care Standards Commission has a complement of 66 pharmacist inspectors and one national pharmacist professional adviser. None are currently employed by the NCSC, as the responsibility for regulation will not be passed until 1 April 200. The national post is due to be advertised in
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mid-February. The full complement of pharmacist inspectors is unlikely to be in post for some time, as there are insufficient pharmacist inspectors eligible to transfer to the NCSC from 1 April 2002. Pharmacy inspection services will therefore be obtained by various local arrangements to fulfil the complement from 1 April.
Jacqui Smith: The National Minimum Standards for care homes focus on achievable outcomes for service users constructed around separate topics, for example, choice of home, health and personal care, daily life and social activities and environment. The standards will form the basis for judgments made by the National Care Standards Commission concerning registration. The standards are not only qualitative, providing a tool for judging the quality of life of service users, but also measurable.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how he will ensure that every hospital that cares for older people with strokes will have established clinical audit systems by April 2003, as required by the National Framework for Older People. 
Jacqui Smith: The Department's Priorities and Planning Framework 200203, issued 6 December 2001 sets the achievement of the milestones of the National Service Framework (NSF) for Older People within one of the three major priorities for local action. The initial milestones set for the improvements in stroke care, provide that:
by April 2003 every hospital which cares for older people with stroke will have established clinical audit systems to ensure delivery of the Royal College of Physicians clinical guidelines for stroke care.
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local priorities for action in ensuring the establishment of integrated stroke services and for the continued auditing of service improvement.
Jacqui Smith: The Department provided £233,000 for the initial development of the stroke audit. Responsibility and funding for the National Sentinel Audits was transferred from the Department to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in December 1999. Following a review last year by NICE of their completed audits topics, the Department is considering a proposal to commission further work on the stroke audit.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he will take to further (a) his Department's policy research and (b) the NHS Research and Development Programme to deal with strokes; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: We have set standards to improve the provision of integrated stroke services in the National Service Framework for Older People, and research will underpin this strategy. The Department continues to support stroke research through the national health service health technology assessment programme (HTA), the Department's policy research programme and other NHS research and development programmes. In addition to the new research referred to in the reply given on 1 February 2002, Official Report, column 624W, the HTA programme has recently advertised further calls for proposals for primary research in the treatment of high blood pressure immediately after stroke.
The NHS research and development programmes use a range of methods to identify, prioritise and commission work in all areas including stroke. Further details can be found on the website www.doh.gov.uk/research.
David Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) when he will reply to the letter of 28 November 2001 from the hon. Member for Walsall, North, regarding a constituent, ref: P0001146;