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Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the cost of allowing the purchase of the prescription pre-payment certificate on a monthly basis at one twelfth of the annual cost; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Lammy: If prescription pre-payment certificates were available on a monthly basis at one twelfth of the current annual cost, the monthly rate would be little more than a single prescription charge, which would be attractive to people on all levels of income. In addition to the costs of collecting the payments and pursuing payment from patients who defaulted on their payments, there would be a considerable loss of charge income and a risk of very significant additional costs to the drugs bill. There would also be additional workloads for doctors if people who currently pay individual prescription charges sought prescriptions for medicines which they currently purchase.
Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the cost of including prescription pre-payment certificates within the scope of the health benefits low income scheme; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Lammy: The cost would depend on the extent of the reduction in the pre-payment certificate (PPC) fee offered through the national health service low income scheme and the number of people who currently purchase PPCs who sought and were entitled to help in this way. Additionally, there could be a loss of charge income and significant additional costs to the drugs bill if people who currently pay individual charges obtained a PPC via this route for prescriptions for medicines and other items which they currently purchase.
Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what representations he has received regarding people on low incomes and their ability to afford their prescriptions; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Lammy: As a result of wide ranging exemption arrangements in England, around 50 per cent. of the population do not pay prescription charges and around 85 per cent. of prescription items are dispensed free of charge. Financial assistance in paying for medication is available to recipients of income support, income based jobseeker's allowance, many recipients of working families' tax credit and disabled person's tax credit and people who hold a national health scheme low income scheme exemption certificate for full help.
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We receive representations from time to time about the ability of people on low incomes to pay for their prescriptions, but we have no plans to change the arrangements other than in the light of changes to the tax credit arrangements.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress towards implementing the national carers strategy requirement that general practitioners should have procedures in place to identify carers by April. 
Jacqui Smith: Improvements in general practitioners (GPs) computer systems completed at the end of March 2002 mean that all GPs are able to record, as part of patient records, details of whether a person is a carer. They are encouraged to do so in order to facilitate the process of sign-posting carers to relevant services.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to publish the performance framework indicator for the number of carer assessments; if he will ensure that the assessments evaluate the proportion of carers assessed at the point of hospital discharge; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: The performance indicator for 200001 for the number of informal carers receiving an assessment as a proportion of the total number of clients and carers receiving assessments was published in October 2001. Details of where assessments took place are not available.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will set out the criteria against which progress in implementing the national carers strategy is monitored; by what means progress is reported to the House; and when progress was last reported. 
Jacqui Smith: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 9 July 2001, Official Report, column 344W. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health (Ms Blears) summarised recent progress on implementing the national strategy for carers in a debate on 12 June 2002, Official Report, column 273WH.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will set out the timetable for the establishment of a fund to support the development of carers services under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000. 
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in post on 1 April, who were professionally qualified as general practitioners, dentists, pharmacists or opticians. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the answer of 24 June 2002, Official Report, column 740W, regarding long-term health, if he will invite the (a) Neurological Alliance and (b) Association of British Neurologists to participate in the external reference group; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: Nominations for membership of the external reference group (ERG) have been received from a wide range of stakeholders. We will consider these before appointing the group later this year. The multi- disciplinary nature of ERGs is the key to developing national service frameworks that deliver realistic improvements in services so members of the group are expected to be drawn from health and social care professionals and managers, service users and carers, voluntary organisations and representatives from other partner agencies.
Mr. Lammy: Information about calls from people living in Portsmouth has only recently been collected. The NHS Direct Hampshire & Isle of Wight site handled around 28,000 calls from people living in Portsmouth in the six months to 1 April 2002.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the need for additional qualified staff to implement proposals in the draft Mental Health Bill; and what measures are being put in place to ensure that an adequate number of people with the necessary experience and qualifications are available. 
We are acting to increase the workforce available generally to mental health services. A workforce action team (WAT) was established to look at workforce, education and training issues of the mental health workforce. A mental health care group work force team has been established to take forward the recommendations of the WAT report.
Now that the draft Mental Health Bill has been published, we will take forward plans to work with the professional bodies and other key national organisations on the implementation of the Bill, including workforce matters.
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Jacqui Smith: Members of the mental health review tribunal are judicial officers appointed by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. No information is held on whether applicants have or have not been users of mental health services.
Mr. Hutton: The NHS plan set targets to increase the NHS workforce. This will include radiographers throughout the country and within London. We recognise that a well-motivated workforce, able to balance their work and domestic responsibilities, will provide a better service to patients.
The regional co-ordinator been seconded from the service since November 2000, to take forward the recruitment, retention and returner initiatives in the field of radiography and the other allied health professions (AHP).
In 1999 Ministers launched the Improving Working Lives Standard (IWL) designed to enable staff to balance their home and work responsibilities as part of this work. A combined AHP and healthcare scientist retention campaign is currently being developed and will be launched in the summer. In addition, the HR strategy for AHPs was accompanied by a booklet called "Building Careers". The booklet illustrates the varied careers available to staff within AHP and the vital contribution they make to patient and client care.
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