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Jacqui Smith: We set targets in the NHS Plan to increase the number of nurses working in the health service. Figures released earlier this year show that between September 1999 and September 2001 recruitment of nurses rose by 20,740. We set new targets in the 2002 budget to recruit 35,000 nurses by 2008 and this will become part of the continuing drive to recruit more health professionals for the National Health Service.
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We recognise the important role that epilepsy nurse specialists play in the treatment and management of people with epilepsy. It is the responsibility of primary care trusts to determine the number of epilepsy nurse specialists required to support the development of epilepsy services within the overall increase in nursing capacity.
Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what consideration the Government have given to the finding of the national audit of epilepsy-related death relating to deficiencies in the implementation of existing NICE guidelines; and what plans he has to ensure the implementation of the guideline due in 2004; 
Jacqui Smith: The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published a summary report of the national sentinel audit of epilepsy related death in May 2002. The publication draws the attention of local National Health Service clinicians and organisations to the need to establish or review policies and practices regarding the management of epilepsy and epilepsy related deaths.
Additionally NICE is developing a clinical guideline for the diagnosis, management and treatment of epilepsy to help address widespread variations in clinical practice and contribute to the improvement of epilepsy services. The guideline is due to be completed in Summer 2004. It will be supported by a technology appraisal of the clinical and cost effectiveness of new anti-epileptic drugs in children and adults, to help promote appropriate uptake and equitable access. The appraisal is due to be completed in Autumn 2003.
Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps are being taken to inform those with epilepsy of the risks of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy and ways of reducing risk; 
(3) what measures are (a) in place and (b) planned to ensure that clinical assessments for epilepsy are performed to a satisfactory standard, including the accurate recording of seizure types, seizure triggers and seizure frequency; 
(4) what assessment he has made of the information and training needs of (a) people with epilepsy and (b) their carers; 
(5) what plans he has to address the finding in the epilepsy deaths report on the adequacy of post-mortem investigations; 
(6) what plans the Government have for implementation and funding of the action plan to address epilepsy-related death; 
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(8) what further initiatives the Government will take to improve levels of epilepsy care across the country; 
(9) what steps are being taken to set a national target for reduction of epilepsy deaths; 
(10) what plans he has to increase the availability of information for health professionals surrounding the issue of drug management for epilepsy medication; 
(11) what plans he has for the involvement of health professionals and the voluntary sector in the implementation of the Action Plan to address epilepsy-related death; 
(12) what plans he has to improve public awareness of epilepsy; 
(13) whether the Home Office is being consulted on the Action Plan to address the finding in the national audit of epilepsy-related death on the adequacy of post-mortem investigations; 
(14) what plans he has to improve the awareness of GPs and health professionals of epilepsy and epilepsy-related death. 
Jacqui Smith: In May 2002, we welcomed the publication of the government funded national sentinel audit of epilepsy-related death. The audit looked at investigations into epilepsy deaths, care provided prior to death and contact with bereaved families. We have given a commitment to consider in full the recommendations of the audit including the issues raised by the hon. Member and to develop an action plan later this year to address the key issues. It will need to take account of and feed into a range of other initiatives including the national service framework (NSF) for long term conditions, which will have a focus on neurological conditions such as epilepsy. We expect to meet with the epilepsy voluntary organisations shortly, and will consult with others as appropriate.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published a summary report of the audit. The publication draws the attention of local National Health Service clinicians and organisations to the need to establish or review policies and practices regarding the management of epilepsy and epilepsy related deaths.
The department is also undertaking a range of other initiatives to improve services for the care and management of people with epilepsy. For example, we have:
Asked NICE to develop a clinical guideline, due in summer 2004, for the diagnosis, management and treatment of epilepsy to help address widespread variations in clinical practice and contribute to the improvement of services. This will be supported by a technology appraisal, due autumn 2003, of the clinical and cost effectiveness of new anti-epileptic drugs in children and adults, to help promote appropriate uptake and equitable access.
Announced that the NSF for long term conditions is expected to develop standards of care for specific neurological conditions, including epilepsy. The NSF is expected to be published in 2004. Implementation is expected to start from 2005.
Developed the expert patients programme, which aims to provide training in self-management skills for people with long term chronic conditions. The first pilot phase will include people with epilepsy.
Provided funding to the joint epilepsy council to develop a National Statement of Good Practice for the Treatment and Care of People who have Epilepsy, which was published in May 2002. The
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statement makes a series of recommendations for good quality epilepsy services. It is intended to facilitate commissioning and will be of use to NHS purchasers, providers and service users.
Provided funding to the national society for epilepsy for its living well project. The project aims to promote independent living by providing locally based short-term courses for people with epilepsy to develop self-help and self-management techniques.
Local health and social care organisations are responsible for planning and providing services for people with epilepsy, including the frequency of contact. The recently announced Budget settlements for the NHS, which represents an annual average increase of 7.5 per cent. above inflation over the five years 200304 to 200708, and personal social services, which represents an annual average increase of 6.0 per cent. above inflation over the three years 200304 to 200506, will provide the investment needed to support the services which best meet patients' and users' needs.
Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 27 June 2002, Official Report, column 1075W, on homeless people, what the reasons were for the delay in answering the Question. 
Ms Blears: We place a high priority on our obligation to ensure that Members receive a timely, accurate and helpful response to their questions, and make every effort to ensure that the live load of questions still awaiting a reply is kept to a minimum at all times. In this instance, the cross-cutting nature of the question led to a regrettable delay in preparing a response, for which I apologise to the hon. Member.
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