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Jane Kennedy: In 2004, the number of prescription items dispensed in the community in England were 29.0 million for antidepressants and 11.9 million for benzodiazepines. More detailed information is available on the Department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/PublicationsAndStatistics/Publications/Publications Statistics/PublicationsStatisticsArticle/fs/en?CONTENT_ ID=4107504&chk=nsvFEO
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to her answer of 7 June 2005, Official Report, column 524W, on antibiotics, what the (a) work programme and (b) sub-groups of the Specialist Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance are; and what the (i) budgets and (ii) timetables are for each. 
Caroline Flint: The specialist advisory committee on antimicrobial resistance (SACAR) provides scientific advice to the Government on its antimicrobial resistance strategy. This strategy aims to minimise the morbidity and mortality due to antimicrobial resistant infection, and maintain the effectiveness of antimicrobial agents in the treatment and prevention of microbial infections in man and animals by surveillance, prudent antimicrobial use and good infection control practices.
|Surveillance||Options for national surveillance including proposals for community meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)autumn 2005|
|Paediatrics||Prescribing trends and influence on complicationsreport due 2006|
|Human prescribing||Analysis of prescribing data and support for prescribes, for example, conference for hospital clinical pharmacistsJuly 2005and national template for antimicrobial prescribing policies|
|Public education||National education campaignsnext proposal due autumn 2005|
|Professional education||Development and co-ordination of new teaching materials and curricula|
|Healthcare associated infection||Short-term group to produce advice on roles and responsibilities of infection control teams by end 2005|
Caroline Flint: The Food Standards Agency has discussed recently published results, from the European Ramazzini Foundation, on the safety of aspartame with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA has requested the full study report from the Ramazzini Foundation and intends to undertake an urgent assessment of the study to establish whether there are any implications for human health. The FSA will study their views very carefully and consider what, if any, action may be required. The safety of aspartame was most recently assessed by the European Commission's scientific committee on food in 2002.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations the Department received from the sweetener industry and how many meetings the Department held with representatives from the sweetener industry prior to the introduction of aspartame in England; and if she will make a statement. 
I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that aspartame has been approved for use in the United Kingdom since 1982 and harmonised conditions of use for the sweetener were adopted in all European Union member states in 1995. The Department does
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nothold records of any representations received from the sweetener industry, or meetings held with representatives of the sweetener industry, prior to the introduction of aspartame in the UK in 1982.
Mr. Byrne: None. The Department funds research to support policy and to provide the evidence needed to underpin quality improvement and service development in the national health service. In the six years from 199798 to 200304, the Department's national research programmes spent £9 million on projects related to asthma.
Over 75 per cent. of the Department's total expenditure on health research is devolved to and managed by NHS organisations. From this funding, the NHS reported spending £29.1 million in support of respiratory diseases in 200304.
Caroline Flint: Records of the number of patients with asthma caused by smoking are not held centrally. In the health survey for England 2001, survey participants were asked about asthma and what brought on their attacks. Of those with doctor-diagnosed asthma and who had an attack within the last five years; 22.3 per cent. of men and 21.8 per cent. of women replied that cigarette smoketheirs or othersbrought on an attack of asthma.
About 2.6 per cent. of the adult population aged 16 and over have doctor diagnosed asthma and have had an attack within the last five years. This corresponds to a population figure of 1,000,000. This is an age-standardised estimate.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 29 June 2005 to the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), Official Report, column 1597W, on audiology services, when data returns on waiting times for digital hearing aids must be first submitted; who is responsible for their submission; how these returns will be assessed; when the first information on waiting times for digital hearing aids are expected to be published; and if she will make a statement. 
To support the18-week target, the Department is currently piloting data collections for a number of, but not all, diagnostic tests including pure tone audiometry. Subject to successful piloting, we intend to roll out these collections to the wider NHS later this year.
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Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action the Government are taking to obtain reference costs for the provision of digital hearing aids on the NHS; when she expects these to be developed into a national tariff; when the provision of digital hearing aids will be included in payment by results; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Byrne: The provision of digital hearing aids is currently excluded from annual reference costs collection; thus the costs of the entire digital hearing aids service, is excluded from the reference costs in 2005. This is the result of their accounting treatment as capitalised grouped assets.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many students are expected to graduate from the new audiology degree courses in 200708; what the attrition rate from these courses has been; what impact she expects these developments to have on the availability of trained staff to fit digital hearing aids; and if she will make a statement. 
The BSc (Hons) in audiology has been developed by the Department, in partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and the audiology professional bodies. This will help to increase the number of audiologists nationally and reduce waiting times for fittings of digital hearing aids.
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