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Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting time between initial general practitioner referral and final fitting of digital hearing aids was in each hospital trust in the last period for which figures are available. 
James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how much was spent by primary care trusts on the public private partnership established for the provision of digital hearing aids in (a) 200304 and (b) 200405; and if she will make a statement; 
(2) which primary care trusts have commissioned services under the public private partnership established for the provision of digital hearing aids; how many patients were treated as a result in (a) 200304 and (b) 200405; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Byrne: A breakdown of primary care trusts participating in public private partnership (PPP) is not available. Royal National Institute for the Deaf, who successfully managed the modernising hearing aids project on behalf of the Department, has provided a list of all national health service trusts participating in the PPP initiative, which has been placed in the Library. The allocated spending to all participating NHS trusts in 200304 was £3.5 million and 200405 was £5.6 million. The information requested on how much was spent by PCTs on the PPP initiative for 200304 and 200506 is not held centrally.
Caroline Flint: The national treatment agency (NTA) monitors the workforce in drug treatment in England. The numbers of specialist drug workers working in the drug treatment sector have increased from 6,794 in March 2002 to 10,106 in September 2005. These are staff who should be able to carry out assessments of a client's substance misuse needs.
The original target to have at least 9,000 workers in the drug treatment sector has therefore already been reached. There is steady progress being made towards achieving the new revised target of 11,000.
These figures include all permanent and temporary staff whose primary function is drug treatment in the community. It does not include shared care general practitioners or drug workers in prison or all staff working in drug intervention programmes (DIP).
Prisons have approximately 1,500 specialist drug workers in prisons who may potentially undertake drug assessments. This comprises of 850 counselling, assessment, referral, advice and through care workers and 650 drug treatment programme staff. These figures are the total number of staff who may potentially undertake drug assessments. However, it may be the case that assessment work is undertaken by some staff and not others depending on team arrangements. The figures for how local or individual teams arrange their working practices are not recorded centrally.
Additionally, there are drugs workers in every custody suite, as part of the drug intervention programme, who, where necessary, conduct required assessments for offenders. Part of the planning for the implementation of the 2005 Drugs Act included working with local drugs teams to ensure that sufficient resources be available to conduct these assessments for offenders. As part of this process all areas implementing the Required Assessment provisions of the Drugs Act 2005, the drug intervention programme intensive areas, were asked to quantify the extra drug workers required to deliver this and additional funding has been allocated. Funding was allocated for some 370 new workers to deliver these required assessments.
We do not hold figures for GPs involved in assessment centrally but the percentage of GP practices recorded by the Healthcare Commission in 200304 within a shared care scheme for problem drug misusers was 35 per cent. The NTA set a 200506 target of 35 per cent. of GPs working within shared care. The results of this target will be published in April 2006.
In addition, by September 2005, 1,894 health care professionals had completed the Department funded Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) drug misuse e-learning module, 562 had attended face to face training arising from this, and 776 GPs had attended the more advanced RCGP certificate. A further 130 GPs were attending the course in September 2005. Over the same period nearly 300 other primary care staff, for example nurses and pharmacists, have attended the certificate training.
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Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what public consultation process will be undertaken by strategic health authorities proposing new or extended water fluoridation schemes; and if she will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 28 March 2006]: If strategic health authorities (SHAs) decide to proceed to explore the benefits of fluoridation, before carrying out a consultation under section 89(1) of the Water Act 2003 they should firstly consult the water undertakers concerned as to whether the arrangements would be operable and efficient. Regulation 3 of the Water Fluoridation (Consultation) Regulations 2005 no. 921 requires SHAs to publish details of the proposal in one or more newspapers circulating in the area and in such other accessible media as the SHA considers appropriate to bring the proposal to the attention of individuals affected and bodies with an interest. SHAs are also required to give notice of the proposal to every local authority affected by the proposal. They are also required to seek the views of their local authority at every step of a consultation on fluoridation.
The response to the consultations will indicate the extent of support for a proposal and SHAs are required to take account of the cogency of the representations and their relevance to health arguments. A SHA cannot base its decision solely on a simple count of the representations for or against the proposal. In making its decision, the SHA should consider publishing a summary of responses, any changes made to the proposal as a result, a summary of the next steps and the reasons for the decision in line with the Cabinet Office code of practice on consultations.
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the strategic health authorities that have commenced consultation with (a) the public, (b) other stakeholders and (c) water companies on commencing artificial fluoridation of water supplies. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 28 March 2006]: Strategic health authorities (SHAs) have not started consultation on fluoridation with the public and other stakeholders as laid down in Section 58 of the Water Act 2003 and the Water Fluoridation (Consultation) Regulations 2005 No. 921.
We understand that Greater Manchester SHA is currently undertaking discussions on the feasibility of fluoridation with United Utilities, the water undertaker in the North West of England.
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Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will place in the Library a copy of the guidance issued to water companies on the legal situation should a strategic health authority request a water fluoridation scheme. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 28 March 2006]: The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water issued an information letter to all water companies in England and Wales on the 11 April 2005 together with a copy of the code of practice on technical aspects of fluoridation of water supplies 2005. Section 2 of the code of practice outlines the legal framework for water fluoridation as in Section 58 of the Water Act 2003 and the changes from original provisions within the Water Industry Act 1991 as they effect water companies in England and Wales. This guidance has been placed in the Library.
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