Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average wait is for a GP referral to a hospital specialist for a back pain appointment in (a) England and (b) Gloucestershire; what steps he is taking to reduce this waiting time; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: The information requested is not collected. Waiting times are not collected by diagnostic group. General practitioners referrals to out-patient attendance are collected by medical consultant specialty. A patient with back pain may be seen by any one of a number of medical consultants in different specialties, though often to rheumatology or orthopaedics. Within these specialties, we have no further breakdown by diagnostic group.
The NHS Plan sets out the progress we want to make on waiting times over the coming years. Each year these will fall, by the end of 2005 the maximum out-patient waiting time for a first out-patient appointment will be cut to three months. Urgent cases will continue to be treated much faster.
As a step towards achieving the NHS Plan targets, from 1 April a new maximum waiting time of six months has been established for patients waiting for their first out-patient appointments with a medical consultant.
2 Jul 2002 : Column 307W
The "Action On" programmes have been established by the Government as part of the modernisation of the national health service. They are led by the modernisation agency service improvement team. Their aim is to significantly encourage and disseminate best practice, improve access to care and to reduce variations in waiting times in the four specialties with the longest waiting times: cataracts, orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat and dermatology.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many infertile couples were seen by specialists in Portsmouth, South in the last three years; how much was spent on fertility treatment in that time; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people have been awarded lump sum damages payouts for medical malpractice in the last three years, broken down by constituency; how much money has been awarded in each of these years, broken down by constituency; and if he will make a statement. 
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements exist to provide eye tests for children of school age; what plans he has to change them; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Lammy: All children are entitled to free annual national health service sight tests provided by community based optometrists under the general ophthalmic services scheme. Children with spectacle prescriptions that are altering as they grow, are receiving treatment or who become symptomatic between examinations, may be seen at intervals of less than one year. In some areas health visitors and school nurses undertake sight checks when screening the health of young children. The eye care professions have been reviewing this practice and their report is expected to be available shortly.
2 Jul 2002 : Column 308W
Mr. Keith Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much money his Department will provide in 200203 for research into Henoch Schonlein Purpura; and to which research centres it is allocated. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 27 June 2002]: A multi- centre, randomised, double blind, placebo controlled study to determine whether steroids reduce the development and severity of nephropathy in Henoch- Schonlein Purpura is being funded by the Wales office of research and development for health and social care of the Welsh Assembly Government. The lead researcher is based at the University Hospital of Wales, which is receiving £91,949 over three years including £19,460 in 200203. There are 19 other hospitals involved throughout Wales and the south-west of England.
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 27 June 2002]: We have already commissioned a full evaluation of the implementation of free nursing care. This will cover the first six to eight months of implementation and report in autumn 2002, so that lessons from the evaluation can be used in the implementation of national health service funded nursing care for all nursing home residents from April 2003.
Elective admission (waiting) lists
Accident and Emergency attendances.
Building on work done by the clinical professions, considerable progress is being made in developing data sets to support sharing information along care pathways and the production of comparative clinical information to enable services to monitor quality and clinical performance. This includes developing clinical data sets in the national service framework areas as follows:
Coronary heart disease
Older people, including single assessment, stroke, falls and dementia, and
2 Jul 2002 : Column 309W
For mental health, a programme is in place to ensure that appropriate services are collecting the mental health minimum data set by 31 March 2003. Further work to develop a comprehensive mental health data set is planned.
And for coronary heart disease, work is in hand to standardise four existing data sets on paediatric cardiac care, acute myocardial infarction, adult surgery and angioplasty to ensure they are consistent and to develop a more comprehensive data set. The paediatric cardiac care and acute myocardial infarction data sets are being collected and used to monitor services. Collection of the adult surgery data started in April 2002 with the aim of having robust national comparative data on the clinical quality of care by 2004.
The NHS Information Authority is responsible for the development of national data sets which can then be applied across the NHS in England through their national data set development programme. The data sets are based on national standards which are approved by the independent NHS information standards board.
Mr. Lammy: Laser treatments to overcome problems caused by ophthalmic disease are available within all large ophthalmology units. Treatments such as capsulotomies following cataract extraction, photocoagulation and focal laser for diabetic retinopathy, and laser for macular disease are available within national health service hospitals. The NHS does not provide laser surgery to correct refractive errors, which can be successfully corrected by spectacles or contact lenses.