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Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will commission a report on the average waiting time for treatment for heroin addiction in (a) 1997 and (b) 2002 in (i) Sunderland, (ii) Manchester, (iii) Birmingham, (iv) Teesside and (v) Central London; and if he will make a statement. [63771]

Ms Blears: The Department commissioned an England-wide research project into waiting times for substitute prescribing and in-patient detoxification for opiate users in 2000. The project is due to report this summer.

Average waiting times for drug treatment services in 2001 in the areas requested are given in the table. This is the latest data available, and comparative data are not available for earlier years.

Community prescribing by: Structured:
Average waiting time (weeks) by drug action team areaIn-patient detoxificationSpecialist GPsCounselling Day careResidential rehabilitation
Central London
City of London6236413
Tower Hamlets101266214
Waltham Forest63(58)000

(58) Information not supplied

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The national treatment agency for substance misuse issued waiting times guidance to drug action teams in March 2002. This sets out recommended maximum waiting times for each type of treatment, and the national treatment agency is monitoring the progress of drug action teams in working towards these. In April 2002, each health authority area received an uplift in central funding for drug treatment of at least 30 per cent. to support this work.

Multiple Sclerosis

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) with reference to the announcement by his Department on 4 February, regarding the assessment of multiple sclerosis patients, who will be responsible for arranging the tests; [54025]

Ms Blears: The UK health departments have reached agreement with manufacturers on a risk-sharing scheme for the supply of disease modifying treatments for multiple sclerosis on the national health service to patients who meet criteria set by the Association of British Neurologists (ABN). Full details of the scheme were issued in Health Service Circular (HSC) 2002/004 on 4 February 2002. The scheme started on 6 May 2002 for those centres with the appropriate infrastructure in place. Some centres will start later depending on the work that has to be undertaken to set up specialist clinics.

The scheme involves groups of patients being specifically monitored over the lifetime of the scheme to confirm the cost-effectiveness of these treatments. Monitoring of patients and potential price adjustments under the scheme are expected to continue over 10 years.

The ABN recommends that initial assessments be undertaken by designated consultants to whom patients should be referred by other neurologists, not directly by general practitioners. The precise service arrangements and referral protocols will be for local agreement taking into account the current spread of specialist services.

Acquired Brain Injury

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to ensure that rehabilitation services for those with acquired brain injury are maintained in advance of the National Service Framework provision; [56437]

Jacqui Smith: Recently announced budget settlements for the national health service (annual average increase of 7.5 per cent. above inflation over the five years 2003–04 to 2007–08) and personal social services (PSS) (annual average increase of 6.0 per cent. above inflation over the three years 2003–04 to 2005–06), will provide the investment needed to support services which best meet patients' and users' needs.

The national service framework for long-term conditions and the clinical guideline on the initial assessment, management and first referral of patients with head injury that the National Institute for Clinical

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Excellence is developing will help improve access to rehabilitation services for people with acquired brain injury generally.

The Government are investing in job retention and rehabilitation pilots which will evaluate the relative effectiveness of health and employment strategies in supporting people with long-term conditions to remain in or return to work.

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 4 February 2002, Official Report, column 788W, what plans he has to assess the number of people who successfully return to work following a brain injury. [56468]

Jacqui Smith: The Department does not plan on assessing the number of people who return to work after a head injury.

However, jobcentre plus management information systems monitor the outcomes (including job entries) of its services and programmes for disabled people including those with brain injury.

We are keen to help ensure that disabled people, including those with head injury, are able to return to work whenever possible. Currently local authorities are taking the lead on joint investment plans on the welfare to work for disabled people initiative. The idea of these plans is to provide effective and joined-up services for disabled people who want to work, to stay in work, or to move closer to the world of work.

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with the Department of Work and Pensions in relation to vocational rehabilitation for individuals with acquired brain injury. [56432]

Jacqui Smith: The Department has held no discussions with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) specifically in relation to vocational rehabilitation for individuals with acquired brain injury. However, the Department is playing an active role in agenda, working in partnership with DWP on job retention and rehabilitation pilots, health and work and joint investment plans for disabled people.

Head Injury

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list those meetings that have taken place in the last 12 months with the voluntary and professional organisations involved in rehabilitation services for people with head injury. [56501]

Jacqui Smith: Last November, the Department held a scoping workshop to inform the development of the national service framework (NSF) for long-term conditions. A wide range of stakeholders, including professional and voluntary organisations, patients and service users, carers and experts attended the workshop. This included those with a particular interest in rehabilitation service for people with head injury, including Headway, the UK acquired brain injury forum (UKABIF), and the British society of rehabilitation medicine (BSRM).

The NSF project team has also visited hospital based rehabilitation units across England including Leeds, London, Cambridge and Wakefield.

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Additionally, departmental officials have held separate meetings with representatives of Headway (October 2001 and April 2002) and the UKABIF (April 2002).

Care Homes

Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when care home providers received the requests for information and documents required by the care home regulations; and by which date the providers were required to respond. [60797]

Jacqui Smith: The Care Homes Regulations 2001 were laid before Parliament on 12 December 2001 and came into effect on 1 April 2002. The regulations were contained in booklets setting out the national minimum standards for care homes for older people and for care homes for younger adults and adult placements, published by the Department. In March 2002, the Department issued order forms along with guidance on the Care Standards Act directly to providers who were already registered. The National Care Standards Commission issued, from February 2002, application packs to providers not previously registered and new to regulation. Those applying to register care homes were required to respond by 31 March 2002. As some delays occurred in issuing registration packs, the National Care Standards Commission has not penalised any care home which has responded after that date.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will investigate the level of service available to care home owners from (a) the National Care Standards Commission and (b) the Criminal Records Bureau. [65000]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 27 June 2002]: I am satisfied that the National Care Standards Commission has made good progress in getting up to speed with its responsibilities, taking account of its extremely large initial workload and the transitional arrangements relating to the commission's establishment. The Department has regular formal and informal monitoring arrangements in respect of the commission's performance.

Measures are being taken to overcome the early operating difficulties experienced by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), which have led to delays in responding to applications for disclosures. We are determined that the CRB will be in a position as soon as possible to meet the high standards of service that it has made clear it will deliver to its customers. The short-term implications for particular service areas using the CRB service are being closely monitored.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when there will be an investigation of the impact of inspection costs linked to the transfer of free nursing care to care homes. [65001]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 27 June 2002]: The Department is currently consulting on amendments to the Care Homes Regulations 2001. There are no specific plans to investigate the inspection costs to the National Care Standards Commission as a result of these. The overall costs of inspection are monitored routinely by the Department.

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Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the differences between the full costs of operating efficient, good quality care in care homes and the average fees paid by local authorities. [64270]

Jacqui Smith: In October 2001 the Government published an agreement, "Building Capacity and Partnership in Care", which states that: "Fee setting must take into account the legitimate current and future costs faced by providers as well as the factors that affect these costs and the potential for improving performance and more effective ways of working". We expect councils to follow this advice when setting the costs of care. According to independent consultants, Laing and Buisson, the vast majority of councils have recently agreed fee increases in excess of 3 per cent. and some councils have agreed much higher increases—one third of councils increased fees by in excess of 10 per cent.

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will introduce a care home modernisation grant payable to local authorities to be paid in line with local care homes' compliance with national minimal standards. [64271]

Jacqui Smith: Decisions about the distribution of resources to local councils for personal social services are likely to be announced later this year.

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