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Mr. Byrne: The main agency through which the Government supports medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC is an independent body, funded by the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology.
The MRC is currently funding a five-year senior non-clinical fellowship at a total cost of £913,000 specifically to research disease mechanisms and ribonucleic acid-based therapies for pathogenic mutations at the neuromuscular synapse. This basic study aims to understand the underlying mechanisms behind myasthenia gravis and other similar conditions.
The MRC has also recently awarded a £205,000 research grant to support a study that aims to investigate a novel therapeutic approach for the silencing of genes causing neuromuscular disease. It is hoped that this research will have widespread application where nucleic acids are contemplated as potential therapeutic agents for muscle or neuromuscular junction disease.
Over 75 per cent. of the Department's total expenditure on health research is devolved to and managed by national health service organisations. Details of individual projects, including some concerned with myasthenia gravis, can be found on the national research register on the Department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/research.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of fruit supplied to schools under the National School Fruit Scheme was sourced according to seasonal variations in local and national availability in the period September 2004 to September 2005. 
Although we are obliged to tender competitively and under European Union competition law cannot favour United Kingdom growers in our tendering process, we have designed the school consumption calendar to reflect any seasonality for produce on a national and international level.
There are 15 distributors to the school fruit and vegetable scheme operating out of 23 distribution centres around the country. Distribution centres are located strategically around the country to attempt to minimise the journey time to schools.
7 Nov 2005 : Column 265W
|Distributor||Location of distribution centres|
|A. G. Axton||Berkshire|
|Arthur Brett||West Midlands|
|Country Fresh||South Yorkshire|
|F. W. Gedney||Ormskirk, Norfolk/Suffolk|
|G. W. Price||North Yorkshire|
|H. B. Hawkes||London|
|Minor Weir and Willis||East Midlands, London, South East|
|Redbridge||Hereford, Stoke-on-Trent, Gateshead,|
Southampton, Bristol, Wigan
|West Country Foods||Cornwall|
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Daventy (Mr. Boswell) of 12 September 2005, Official Report, column 2719W, on neurological conditions, what work force issues were identified by the work force team; and what steps are being taken to address them. 
Mr. Byrne: The work force group identified shortages in the professions required to deliver the long term conditions national service framework, including medical consultants, allied health professions, specialist nurses and support staff, and the need for a greater flexibility in when and how services are delivered.
The work force development priorities in this area are reviewed, alongside the requirements in other areas, by the work force review team and will be reflected, with other work force priorities, in the annual workforce planning recommendations to strategic health authorities (SHAs), which are expected to be published shortly. The recommendations cover work force planning in England for healthcare scientists, allied health professions, nurses and midwives, dental teams and doctors and are based on available evidence provided from many sources, including the work force group. The SHAs then consider their local circumstances and options for addressing their specific requirements.
Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) accident and emergency, (b) intensive care unit and (c) general beds are available in each NHS trust; what percentage that represents of the total beds in each case; and if she will make a statement. 
Accident and emergency departments do not have any beds. Information on the number of available beds in wards classified as intensive care and general and acute beds and also the percentage of the total by trust in 200405 has been placed in the Library.
7 Nov 2005 : Column 266W
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's observations on NHS complaints structures; and if she will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy: Making Things Better: A Report on Reform of the NHS Complaints Procedure in England" (10 March 2005) is a useful and timely report, which focuses on the need to develop a more patient-centred national health service complaints procedure. The objective of any complaints process must be to satisfy the person who has raised concerns and, where appropriate, to use that information in order to improve services.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will define the term control total, used for the purposes of the financial monitoring of NHS organisations; and whether NHS organisations will be required to repay the deficits contained within their respective control totals. 
Mr. Byrne: Control totals are used where it would be impossible to return to financial balance in a single year. The aim is to bring strategic health authorities (SHAs) as close as possible to financial balance for their local health communities.
The control totals are set in consultation with SHAs. Irrespective of the control totals set, SHAs carry forward deficits and surpluses to the following financial year. This ensures organisations do not benefit from having a deficit, and are not disadvantaged by having a surplus.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which NHS organisations have financial recovery plans; when each was agreed; over what period each runs; which have been subject to revision; and for what reasons. 
Mr. Byrne: The Department manages the financial performance of the national health service through strategic health authorities (SHAs). NHS organisations that overspend are required to develop recovery plans to return to financial balance. Recovery plans are agreed and managed by SHAs so the information requested is not held by the Department.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 21 October 2005, Official Report, column 1287W, on NHS finance, who will provide the additional funding needed to provide strategic health authorities with an uplift to their carry forward; and what she has estimated the scheme will cost in 200607. 
Mr. Byrne: Under the incentive scheme, strategic health authorities that underspend will receive additional resources and those that overspend will receive a reduction to their resources. On this basis, we expect the scheme to be self-balancing.
Mr. Byrne: There was a mixed response to the proposal to change the name of direct payments as outlined in the Green Paper, Independence, Well-being and Choice: Our vision for the future of social care for adults in England". We are currently considering the implications of this issue further.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which areas will be piloting individual budgets; when she expects the pilots to begin; and how individual budgets will differ from the system of direct payments. 
Mr. Byrne: The first individual budget pilot, which will take place in West Sussex and focus on older people, will begin in December this year. The remaining sites, of which there will be around a dozen, are in the process of being selected. An announcement will be made in November. They will come on stream throughout 2006 and will continue for between 18 months and two years.
The programme of pilots is being developed with input from stakeholders including people who use services, and an academic research and evaluation team. The pilots are being comprehensively evaluated in order to ensure that they can provide us with the evidence we need to make decisions about future roll-out.
Individual budgets would build on some of the successful features of direct payments and have the same principles of choice and control. There are, however, some key differences. Individual budgets would include a number of income streams rather than simply social care services in order to give the individual a more joined-up package of support. Individual budgets would also give the individual choice over how they receive their allocation; it does not have to be a cash allocation. Most importantly, individual budgets put people in the centre of the planning process, recognising that they are the person best placed to understand their own needs and how to meet them.
Mr. Byrne: The national health service has achieved overall financial balance in each of the past four years, up to 200405. The audited accounts show that the NHS as a whole will end 200405 with an overall deficit of around £250 million. This represents around only 0.4 per cent. of total NHS resources, compared with the 1.5 per cent. deficit figure in 199697.
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