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Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what her most recent estimate is of the average time taken to settle a claim for clinical negligence against the NHS; and what the figure was in 1997. 
Jane Kennedy: The latest available data from the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) is shown in the table. There is no directly comparable data available for 1997. However, the National Audit Office estimated that of claims closed in 19992000, the average time taken from claim to payment of damages was five and a half years, and the average total time from incident to payment of damages was just over seven years. These figures were for existing liability scheme (ELS) cases. The ELS covers clinical negligence claims made against the national health service in England where the incident in question took place before April 1995. While initially, NHS bodies were responsible for handling and funding lower-value ELS claims themselves, since April 2000 all ELS claims have been handled centrally by the NHSLA.
|Existing liability scheme cases (ELS)(2)||3.82|
|Clinical negligence scheme trust cases (CNST)(3)||1.36|
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many inappropriate referrals to patient advisory and liaison services there were in the last period for which figures are available; how she plans to ensure that consumers of health services who are not satisfied with
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the treatment they receive know to whom they should complain; and what help is available in making such complaints. 
Consumers of health services who are not satisfied with the treatment they receive will have access to a range of help and information sources, which can point out to whom they should complain. In particular, national health service and primary care organisations are required to publicise their complaints procedure, including the name of the complaints manager. There should also be local publicity about the role and location of PALS, which can often offer on the spot help and potential resolution of issues without engagement in the formal complaints procedure.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will make a statement on the progress being made in developing a national framework for the assessment of NHS continuing care; whether the framework will constitute a single, universal set of national eligibility criteria for access to NHS continuing care; what representations she has received on whether the current eligibility criteria are weighted towards physical needs, as opposed to mental health or psychological need; whether the national framework will include a national standard assessment methodology; and whether she expects that the national framework will integrate the system for assessing NHS continuing care with the system for assessing NHS-funded nursing care; 
(2) what steps she is taking to ensure that patients with continuing needs are offered assessments for NHS continuing care; and what steps she is taking to ensure that assessments for NHS continuing care are carried out before assessments for NHS funded nursing care; 
(3) what steps she is taking to ensure that the potential savings available to residents of care homes deemed eligible for either NHS continuing care or NHS-funded nursing care are reflected in reduced care home fees. 
Mr. Byrne: All strategic health authorities (SHAs) have undergone a review of their current eligibility criteria to ensure their legal compliance. New cases are now considered routinely as part of hospital discharge. This ensures that patients are assessed first for continuing care, if they do not meet the criteria they are then considered for national health service-funded nursing care only. Assessments are based on the totality of an individual's physical and mental care needs arising from one or more disability, accident or illness.
Where someone is assessed as needing NHS continuing care, the NHS directly provides all the services that the individual has been assessed as requiring. If the individual needs to be in a care home, then the care home fees are paid directly by the NHS.
An amendment to the care home regulations obliges homes to provide a breakdown of their fees. When an individual in a care home receives registered nursing
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care, therefore, it should be clear to the resident which aspect of their fees relate to registered nursing care, and which to residential care.
The Department is currently working closely with stakeholders to produce a national framework for assessment for continuing care due for publication in early 2006. This should result in national eligibility criteria and suitable assessment methodologies for access to NHS continuing care. The Department has a number of representations about the development of a national framework, all of which will be taken into account in its development. In accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines, we will consult on the official guidance and any legislation required later this year.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she will begin consultation on a new system of dental patient charges; and on what date she first received the report on options for a new system. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: A dental charges working group, led by Harry Cayton, the Department's Director for Patients and the Public, submitted proposals for a new system of dental patient charges to the Department in March 2004. These proposals are being considered alongside information about the effects of the new pilot dental contracts on treatment patterns. A written ministerial statement in January indicated that we would be consulting on the regulations for a new system of dental charges in the summer.
Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the value is of each recruitment contract awarded to Methods Consulting for recruiting overseas dentists in (a) Greece, (b) Portugal, (c) Germany, (d) Spain and (e) India; and how many dentists Methods Consulting are contracted to recruit from each country. 
Departmental officials are working with Action on Elder Abuse, the United Kingdom Home Care Association and the Commission for Social Care Inspection to consider this recommendation from the Health Select Committee Inquiry into elder abuse. The outcome of this work will be fed into the review of the national minimum standards announced by the Government in October 2004.
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Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the likely impact of proposals to close two wards at Evesham community hospital on (a) capacity in the Worcestershire health service and (b) compliance with her Department's policy on giving priority to local wishes in developing local services. 
South Worcestershire primary care trust (PCT) is considering a number of options for the configuration of services across South Worcestershire in the future. The PCT will be entering into wide and detailed discussions during the coming weeks with key individuals, groups and organisations including the overview and scrutiny committee.
West Midlands South strategic health authority is working closely with South Worcestershire PCT to ensure that the views of the public are sought and taken into account in developing the proposals and that any changes are in line with "Keeping the NHS Local".
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