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Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance she issues to NHS hospital trusts concerning the nature and duration of public consultation exercises related to proposals to reconfigure services. 
Strengthening Accountability: Involving Patients and the PublicPolicy Guidance Section 11 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 (February 2003) and Overview and Scrutiny of HealthGuidance (July 2003)."
These advise that it is good practice for consultation to follow Cabinet Office guidelines, which state that full consultation should last for a minimum of 12 weeks. Both documents are available on the Department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/publications.
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Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what percentage of bursary applications to the NHS Students Grant Unit in 2005 have failed to meet the processing target of 20 working days; 
35 per cent. of applications for bursary payments in academic year 200506 have failed to meet the processing target of 20 working days. However, as at 16 November 2005, 94 per cent. of students have been paid.
Since the beginning of the academic year 200506, all written correspondence and telephone inquiries received by the Student Grants Unit has received a response within 20 working days. All e-mail inquiries have received an acknowledgement and update from the unit within 20 working days of receipt.
There is technology in place that enables the unit to record telephone activity. From the start of the academic year 200506 to date, the average waiting time for telephone inquiries on hold on the student helpline number is approximately five minutes. Due to the complexity of many of the inquiries an operator spends approximately five minutes handling each call.
Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she expects the revised proposals for a rapid appraisal system for life-saving drugs by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to be (a) issued for consultation and (b) implemented. 
Jane Kennedy: I announced on 3 November 2005 proposed changes to enable the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce faster guidance on life-saving drugs. This new single technology appraisal (STA) process has already been implemented, on an interim basis, with NICE starting work on five topics as a first tranche.
On 11 November 2005, NICE published a consultation document on the new STA process. The consultation will end on 6 February 2006. A copy of the consultation document is available on NICE's website at www.nice.org.uk.
Mr. Byrne: The Government has substantially increased the national health service work force and numbers entering training. The number of nursing posts in the NHS continues to expandthere are over 390,000 nurses in the NHS and there are 78,660 or 25 per cent. more qualified nurses employed in the NHS than there were in 1997.
Responsibility for recruiting and retaining the healthcare work force locally, including nurses, has been devolved to local employers. The national strategies are already in place to support trusts to recruit and retain staff, promote training and development and redesign their work forces.
Caroline Flint: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has been commissioned to prepare definitive guidance on the prevention, identification, management and treatment of obesity. This is due in early 2007.
Meanwhile, as part of its wider obesity public service agreement programme, the Department is assisting primary care trusts (PCTs) in improving their obesity services by developing guidance on the following tools; an obesity care pathway, a tool to assist health professionals, a weight loss guide and height and weight guidance for primary school children. These will be published in December 2005-January 2006.
As an enhanced role for better coordination between the regional tiers and sub-regional tiers of administration, the Department exercises a performance management function for strategic health authorities and PCTs.
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Caroline Flint: We recently reviewed evidence on the effectiveness of obesity interventions in developing our primary care quality and outcomes framework bid for new adult obesity quality indicators. Although there is limited research on the treatment of obesity by primary care organisations preliminary indicative results from the counterweight programme, an evidence-based weight management model, show that implementation of a structured model for weight management is feasible and effective in the primary care setting. The Department has commissioned the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to prepare definitive guidance on the prevention, identification, management and treatment of obesity which is due in early 2007.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list in descending order the deficit or surplus of each (a) primary care trust and (b) strategic health authority at the most recent date for which the information is available; and what the change in funding per head of population since 2000 is in each case. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate has been made of total pension liabilities in (a) England and (b) Durham following the reorganisation of primary care trusts. 
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