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Mr. Byrne: It is the responsibility of the NHS Staff Council to set these rates. A copy of the complete agenda for change terms and conditions of service handbook, which sets out the new pay structure and additional terms is available in the Library.
Mr. Byrne: The number of early retirements under the national health service pension scheme for consultants in England and Wales is shown in the table. It is not possible to identify senior consultants separately. The data represents early retirements effective during 2001 to 2006.
|Total consultant early pension awards|
Mr. Byrne: This is a matter for the Chair of the Countess of Chester Hospital National Health Service Foundation Trust. I have written to Jim Sharples informing him of your enquiry. He will reply shortly and a letter will be placed in the Library.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the number of (a) primary and (b) secondary school children who regularly have (i) school meals and (ii) packed lunches. 
The Government have launched a national audit of school food provision in order to assess the progress that is already being made by local authorities and schools. The national audit, which began on 17 October, will cover issues such as how much is being spent on school meals ingredients, how they are provided, whether children get hot or cold meals and the percentage of pupils currently buying school meals.
Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average cost to the NHS is of (a) a digital hearing aid, (b) the fitting of a digital hearing aid and (c) assessment for a digital hearing aid. 
There is currently no central data collection on the average cost of the fitting of, or assessment for, digital hearing aids as this service is currently excluded from the annual reference costs collection.
Mr. Byrne [holding answer 21 October 2005]: We have taken a number of steps to expand the use of direct payments. We have changed the law so it is now a duty on local councils to make direct payments, not just a power. We also introduced the direct payments development fund, which is £9 million over three years, to encourage investment in direct payments support services. In addition, we have strengthened the performance indicator to monitor the take-up of direct payments in each local council.
We have also consulted in our recent Green Paper, Independence, Well-being and Choice", on ways to extend the benefits of direct payments to those currently excluded, by using an agent for those without the capacity to consent, or unable to manage even with assistance.
We have acknowledged that our ability to increase the number of people using direct payments is limited by the barriers some people experience taking them up. Some people find that the responsibilities that come with having a direct payment are too much for them. We are piloting the introduction of individual budgets for those with assessed social care needs which will include looking at how those who receive services can be supported.
Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) senior house officer posts there are in England and (b) how many were filled by non-UK trained doctors in each year since 1997. 
|Medically qualified SHOs and equivalents in England||Medically qualified SHOs and equivalents who qualified outside the UK|
Mr. Byrne: Information on women diagnosed with endometriosis is not available in the form requested. In 200304, the number of finished consultant episodes 1 (FCEs) in national health service hospitals in England where the primary diagnosis was endometriosis (ICD10 code N80) was 16,350 2 .
The Department of Health supports the two main voluntary organisations in the field, the National Endometriosis Society and Endometriosis SHE Trust, by providing funding towards central administrative costs and for specific projects.
The Government fund medical and health research in a number of different ways. The main agency through which the Government fund medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC is an independent body, which receives its grant-in-aid from the Office of Science and Technology, part of the Department of Trade and Industry. In 200203, the MRC spent £1 million on endometriosis and the general physiology of the endometrium.
1 A FCE is defined as a period of admitted patient care under one consultant within one health care provider. Please note that the figures do not represent the number of patients, as a person may have more than one episode of care within the year.
2 Source: Hospital episode statistics, Department of Health.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she expects to publish the new Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) as part of the review of the General Medical Services contract; and what progress has been made in the review of QOF so far. 
Mr. Byrne: NHS Employers are responsible for reviewing the general medical services contract with the British Medical Association's general practitioners' committee. Negotiations are in progress and negotiators have confirmed some changes will be made to the Quality and Outcomes Framework from April 2006.
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