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21 Feb 2005 : Column 149W—continued


Alan Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health who the ministerial design champion for his Department is. [215649]

Mr. Hutton: The Ministerial design champion for the Department is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lords) Lord Warner.
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Digital Hearing Aids

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting time for a patient to receive a digital hearing aid in England has been in each year since 2000. [216181]

Dr. Ladyman: This information is not held centrally.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many audiology departments there are in England; what proportion are routinely fitting digital hearing aids; and what he expects the proportion to be in March. [216182]

Dr. Ladyman: There are 164 national health service audiology departments in England. 95 per cent. (156) are, as of 9 February 2005, routinely fitting digital hearing aids. By the end of March 2005 all areas will be doing so.

Delayed Discharges

Mr. Havard: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will encourage hospitals to discharge patients into the community for treatment as soon as clinically possible to reduce exposure to MRSA and other hospital acquired infections; [215821]

(2) what guidance he has given to primary care trusts on funding the treatment of patients once they are discharged into the community to complete their treatment. [215822]

Dr. Ladyman: In England, the Government are committed to reducing the number of delayed discharges from hospital. The launch of the Cash for Change" programme in 2001 signalled the Government's determination to tackle the problem of delayed hospital discharges through a major cash investment of £300 million over two years. By 2006, older people's services will receive an extra £1 billion a year to expand home care services, extra care housing, community equipment, services for carers and intermediate care. The number of delayed discharges has fallen from 7,065 to 2,742 between September 2001 and June 2004.

Since 5 January 2004, if a patient remains in hospital because social services have not provided the assessments or services the patient or their carer needs to be safely discharged, the local authority is liable to pay the national health service a charge per day of delay. The charge has been set at a level higher than the cost of providing services to support discharge and will act as an incentive to councils to improve their assessment and service provision. It also acts as a stimulus to ensure prompt discharge.

Hospitals are expected to take all practical measures to safeguard their patients from health care associated infections, as set out in the Chief Medical Officer's strategy Winning Ways", published in December 2003.

It is for primary care trusts to manage their obligations effectively, within the total resources available to them. The position in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly.

Doctors (Refugees)

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Health(1) what progress his Department has made in employing refugee doctors; [214161]
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(2) what assistance is given to refugee doctors to enable them to (a) register and (b) practise in this country. [214168]

Mr. Hutton: We have invested over £2 million in providing support, advice and training for refugee health professionals over the past four years. A significant amount of this funding has to gone to refugee doctors to help them develop their knowledge of the English language and their clinical skills. This investment has helped many refugee doctors pass the General Medical Council's English language and clinical competence exams, and therefore gain limited registration to practise medicine in the United Kingdom.

Like everyone else, refugee doctors must then apply in open competition for posts in the national health service. We have invested in curriculum vitae and interview skills coaching and NHS induction courses to help refugee doctors become more competitive at application stage. We have also supported the development of a national career advice and information website for refugee health professionals through North East London strategic health authority.

In addition to this, the NHS is making its own investment in the refugee workforce locally.

Drug Action Teams

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what role his Department is allocating to drug action teams (DATs) in delivering the Government's alcohol strategy; and what funding is being provided to DATs for that role. [216395]

Miss Melanie Johnson: At present the Department is not allocating any role to drug action teams (DATs) in delivering the Government's alcohol strategy nor is funding directly provided. However, a large number of Drug Action Teams have voluntarily taken on alcohol within their remit and these are now known as Drug and Alcohol Action Teams.


Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the waiting time is in the Greater London area for a person suffering from drug addiction to receive treatment; and if he will make a statement. [215164]

Dr. Ladyman: A person waiting to receive treatment for drug addiction in Greater London has the following waits (projected regional average across all 33 boroughs) for December 2004:
In-patient treatment2.8
Residential rehabilitation2.5
Specialist prescribing2.4
General practitioner prescribing1.4
Structured day care1.6
Structured counselling2.2

Full waiting times data, including breakdown by each drug action team area—in London, are available on the National Treatment Agency for substance misuse website at
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Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies his Department has undertaken of treatment regimes for drug abuse in other countries. [214278]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Department has not commissioned any formal studies into treatment regimes for substance misuse in other countries.

However, to help ensure the best current policy and practice, the Department and National Treatment Agency draw on a wide range of expertise on the treatment of drug misuse to develop guidance, guidelines and policy. This allows knowledge of local, national and international approaches to influence developments.

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting time is for residential drug rehabilitation in the Easington constituency; and how many patients are awaiting treatment. [214106]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The average waiting time information is not available at constituency level.

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse reports that the average waiting time for residential drug rehabilitation placements commissioned by County Durham Social Services Department, which covers the Easington constituency is 2.5 weeks, calculated from the date of assessment at an identified rehabilitation provider to the date of admission. This figure only includes individuals who were actually admitted to residential rehabilitation.

The number of patients awaiting treatment in Easington is low, and therefore not disclosable due to issues of patient confidentiality.

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients received treatment for drug abuse in Easington constituency over the last three years. [214454]

Miss Melanie Johnson: This information is not collected by constituency.

In 2003–04, 967 people were in contact with structured drug treatment services within the Durham Drug Action Team. Comparable figures were not published for the previous two years.

National Treatment Agency

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting time is for a residential drug rehabilitation place in Somerset. [214473]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The average waiting time for a residential drug rehabilitation place in Somerset was four weeks in December 2004.

National Treatment Agency

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