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Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the provision of beta interferon and glatiramer for multiple sclerosis in Northern Ireland. 
Angela Smith: Disease modifying treatments for people with multiple sclerosis have been available in Northern Ireland since the mid-1990s. At 4 November 2004 there were 540 people with multiple sclerosis receiving disease modifying treatments such as beta interferon or glatiramer, with a further 20 people suspended from treatment. There were 65 people on the waiting list for treatment.
My Department remains committed to improving access to specialist drugs, including beta interferon and glatiramer, which offer the potential for significant improvement in patient care. Substantial additional funding has been made available to Health and Social Services Boards for a wide range of specialist medicines
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and the infrastructure to support their provision. This year, Health and Social Services Boards will spend an estimated £4.5 million providing specialist drugs to MS sufferers.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many cases of necrotising fasciitis there were in each of the last five years; and what steps he has taken to limit the number of cases of necrotising fasciitis in the Province. 
Trusts have infection control measures in place that help to limit the number of cases. These include the use of isolation wards, treatment for the close family of patients, tissue viability nurses who specialise in improving wound management, and the implementation of CREST guidelines on wound management.
Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what checks on citizenship and permanent residence are carried out by the national health service in Northern Ireland on patients presenting for medical treatment; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: All persons presenting to a GP practice for emergency or immediately necessary medical treatment are entitled to receive such treatment free of charge, regardless of citizenship or length of residence. In relation to non-emergency medical treatment, or medical treatment that is not immediately necessary, a GP will have to be satisfied that the person can be considered as "ordinarily resident" in Northern Ireland before accepting the person onto the practice list for NHS treatment. If the GP is not sure of the residence status, the person is referred to the Central Services Agency for a decision on entitlement and the issue of a medical card.
Anyone who presents to a hospital accident and emergency department requiring emergency medical treatment will receive appropriate, hospital, specialist and ancillary services will be provided to all regardless of citizenship or length of residence. For any person not ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland who becomes ill when in Northern Ireland, services will be made available to the extent deemed necessary by the medical practitioner concerned with the treatment of that person to enable them to return to their country of residence.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many whole-time equivalent dentists are employed within the NHS in the Province; and how many there were (a) five, (b) 10 and (c) 15 years ago. 
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assistance is being provided to elderly patients who no longer have their medications prescribed on a weekly basis; and if he will estimate the annual savings in the Province that will result from the recent policy to limit weekly prescribing of medications to patients. 
Angela Smith: No action has been taken to limit weekly prescribing of medications to patients. That remains a clinical decision for the GP (or other qualified prescriber) based upon the patient's condition.
Action was however taken recently to clarify the rules in the NI Drug Tariff with effect from 1 October 2004 under which it is appropriate for pharmacists to be paid Multiple Dispensing fees. This clarification was not aimed at making financial savings, but rather concerned with preventing inappropriate claims for Multiple Dispensing fees.
Angela Smith: Priorities for Action 200506 is currently under development. Its precise content will be decided in light of the Budget settlement, later this month. I expect to publish the document early in the new year.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 29 November 2004, Official Report, column 24W, on priority treatment (ex-service personnel), if he will authorise boards and trusts in the Province to provide the same hospital treatment for ex-servicemen and women as has been available in England, Wales and Scotland since 1972. 
There are no plans at present to change the current arrangements whereby war pensioners access hospital services in Northern Ireland. I will be meeting with members of the Northern Ireland Veterans
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Association later this month to discuss the needs of ex-service personnel in Northern Ireland. This meeting will cover a range of issues and careful consideration will be given to any points raised by the association.
Angela Smith: The most recent published waiting list data available shows the position at 30 September 2004, when 1,184 individuals in Northern Ireland were awaiting a first out-patient appointment in the child and adolescent psychiatry specialty.
Angela Smith: Policy and services for child and adolescent psychiatry services are currently being examined under the Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability (N.I.). The Review will recommend how future service delivery should be managed and funded.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many in-patients are in the new Regional Adolescent Psychiatry Unit; and on what date the most recent patient was admitted. 
Angela Smith: As a result of current difficulties due to a shortage of clinical cover, the Regional In-patient Adolescent Psychiatry Unit remains closed to admissions. Boards and trusts are making every effort to care for existing in-patients and to re-open the unit for new admissions as soon as possible.
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