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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will set out the criteria used to choose those general practitioners who wish to participate in the pilot choose and book exercise; and if she will make a statement. 
The choose and book programme has concluded its proof of concept pilot phase, which was conducted over 14 primary care and 13 secondary care sites. This was concluded in June 2005. The programme
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will not be undertaking any more pilots as the system has moved to wider roll out across the national health service.
The choose and book system is now available to all general practitioner practices (GP) in England in either the web based format or fully integrated. Local GPs should contact their local primary care trust's choose and book lead to agree a go live date.
Mr. Byrne: As at 27 October 2005, 1,089 general practitioner (GP) practices had gone live with and started to make referrals using the choose and book system. This equates to 13 per cent. of the GP practices in England.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she has taken to ensure that the Commission for Social Care Inspection has the capacity to analyse trends in the numbers and types of complaints it receives. 
To ensure that the CSCI has the resources to carry out its functions, the Department provides funding through grant-in-aid to supplement income generated by the CSCI from its regulatory work. In 200405, grant-in-aid from the Department amounted to just under £101 million.
The follow-up report will contain information about how care homes score against medication national minimum standards, similar to the original medication report published by the National Care Standards Commission in March 2004.
Publication of the report has been put back from December 2005 to February 2006, so that it can incorporate an analysis of complaints regarding medication issues that the Commission has received about care homes. It will also incorporate the results of a survey of CSCI inspectors on what factors led them to award top or bottom scores for homes against the medication standards.
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The report covers the inspection work that CSCI, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission have jointly carried out into the way in which the national health service and councils are working together with their partners to meet the needs of older people and improve their lives.
Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will ensure that community pharmacists are allocated a guaranteed seat on the commissioning boards of the locality commissioning consortia which are due to be set up as part of the new practice-based commissioning system. 
Mr. Byrne: There is no requirement for commissioning consortia to be established under practice based commissioning. This is a decision for primary care trusts, involving their practices and other primary healthcare professionals as appropriate.
Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the results of the 2004 annual consultant physician census carried out by the Federation of Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Byrne: The Department does not accept the Royal College of Physician's contention that 78 per cent. of consultant physicians intend to retire early. There is often a distinct difference between the intention expressed when doctors are asked such a question and what actually happens when individual doctors reach the relevant age. The average retirement age for consultants has been relatively steady in recent years at around 63 to 64 years of age.
The Department has developed a range of flexible retirement options, so doctors approaching retirement can adapt their working patterns without affecting pension entitlement. By extending their working lives through flexible retirement, experienced doctors can continue to provide their important services to patients and local communities.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average duration of an episode of NHS continuing care has been in each year since 199798; and what the total cost has been of providing NHS continuing care in each year since 199798. 
Information on the average duration of a continuing care episode is not held centrally. There is no way to estimate with any precision the average duration of an episode of this type. Durations are likely to vary
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considerably, ranging from individuals with a life expectancy of just a few days, to those who remain in continuing care for extended periods. Information relating to the total cost of providing continuing care is not held centrally.
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the evidential basis is for the statement in her response of 21 July 2005 to the Health Select Committee's report on Continuing Care that the divide between health and social care provision, and the basis on which it is provided, has stood since 1948. 
Mr. Byrne: The distinction is a matter of law. The founding legislation of our health and social care are two separate and distinct Acts of this Parliament in the immediate post-war period; the National Health Service Act, 1946 and the National Assistance Act, 1948. More recent legislation, such as the Health and Social Care Act of 2001, has fostered and promoted co-operation and joint working between health and social care.
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what procedures are in place to be followed by (a) primary care trust officers and (b) social workers to ensure that the NHS carries out a complete fully-funded NHS continuing care assessment where it is required; 
(2) pursuant to the Government's response to the Health Select Committee's report, on NHS continuing care, cm 6650, on what date the template requiring all strategic health authorities to advertise was issued; and what the wording of the template is; 
(3) how many times the NHS has settled cases out of court after solicitors for a patient have served final legal notice that court proceedings to secure free continuing care under R. (Coughlan) v. Devon Health Authority are being launched. 
Mr. Byrne: Following the Ombudsman's report on continuing care assessment procedures, eligibility for fully funded national health service continuing care is now considered routinely as part of hospital discharge. Detailed guidance on procedures for NHS continuing care is available on the Departments website at the following addresses:
Strategic health authority (SHA) continuing care leads were sent a template on 13 May 2003. This template provided a suggested procedure for SHAs and primary care trusts to follow when investigating continuing care inquiries arising from the Ombudsman's report. It suggested what reasonable action was required in order to make people aware of the review process. A copy of the template is available in the Library.
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