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Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many medical students who are studying in Northern Ireland will (a) be unable to continue their studies and (b) be unable to take up positions of employment in Northern Ireland as a result of the new visa regulations pertaining to international medical students; and if he will make a statement. 
(b) Non-European economic area (EEA) doctors already in training posts will now be considered as being employed rather than in training, and therefore will need to meet the work permit provisions. Transitional arrangements are in place for those who have been offered a post starting on or before 4 August 2006.
The new immigration rules introduced by the Home Office that came into effect on 3 April 2006 will not prevent doctors from training in the United Kingdom, but are designed to bring the employment of doctors into line with other sectors of the UK economy.
Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) nurse and (b) doctor training places were available in Northern Ireland in each of the last 10 years; how many people entered training in each year; and how many people qualified in each year. 
Paul Goggins: The number of (a) nurses and (b) doctors who commenced training and completed training in each of the last 10 years is presented in the following tables. All available training places have been filled in each of the 10 years.
|Table (a1): Number of pre-registration nursing students who commenced training in each of the last 10 years|
|Academic year||Number commencing training|
|Table (a2): Number of pre-registration nursing students who completed training in each of the last 10 years|
|Academic year||Number qualifying|
|(1 )The completing figures for academic year 2005-06 are not yet available. (2 )Students completed training via the five colleges of nursing for 1996-97. Note: University of Ulster completed the above number. Source: Queens University Belfast, University of Ulster and Open University|
|Table (b1): Queens University Belfast (Home and EU) undergraduate medical students/places|
|Academic year||Number of places/students|
|Table (b2): Queens Home and EU medical graduates|
|Academic year||Number of students|
|(1 )The figures for 2005-06 will not be available until mid-July.|
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average waiting time is for multiple sclerosis patients in the Western Health and Social Services Board (WHSSB) area to be added to the waiting list to receive disease-modifying therapy (DMT) treatment; what the average waiting time is for MS patients in the WHSSB area who are on the waiting list to begin DMT treatment; and what the target time is in each case. 
Paul Goggins: Patients with MS who are assessed as eligible to receive treatment with disease modifying therapies are placed on the waiting list following assessment by, and in consultation with, their neurologist. There is no waiting period to be added to the list.
Waiting list information for disease modifying therapies is collected by time band. While these cannot be used to calculate the average length of time waiting, it is possible to identify the median or mid-point waiting time band. The median waiting time band for MS patients in the Western Board area at 30 April 2006 was six to eight months. An additional £2 million has been allocated to Health and Social Services Boards in 2006-07 and 2007-08 which will, by March 2008, allow all those who are currently waiting for disease modifying therapies to start their treatment and ensure that new patients who are eligible for treatment do not face long waits.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many new multiple sclerosis patients in the Western Health and Social Services Board (WHSSB) area have begun receiving disease-modifying therapy in the last three months; how many additional MS patients in the WHSSB area have been placed on the waiting list to receive DMT treatment in the last three months; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Goggins: In the three month period from 1 March 2006 to 31 May 2006, two multiple sclerosis patients from the Western Health and Social Services Board area started treatment with disease modifying therapies. Over the same period, two Western Board patients were added to the waiting list.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the financial impact on families of respite care charges for adults with learning disabilities; and what plans he has to review the making of such charges. 
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many taxis are being used to transport children to school in each education and library board area; and at what cost. 
|Number of taxis||Cost (£)|
Education and library boards only transport pupils via taxi where an existing bus service is not available and it is more cost effective to provide a taxi rather than introduce a new route. In addition, pupils with a statement of special needs may have specialised transport requirements that can only be met through the provision of a taxi. Medical experts make this decision and the requirement to provide transport via taxi is detailed on the pupils statement of special needs.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many children have (a) been injured and (b) reported attacks by other children in shared taxis in the last two years, broken down by education and library board. 
Maria Eagle: Four of the five education and library boards have confirmed that there have been no children reported injured by other children while travelling to and from school in shared taxis in the last two years. The Southern education and library board has also confirmed that there have been no serious injuries to children during this period but is not able to provide details of minor incidents.
Maria Eagle: Proposals to close a school are subject to the publication of a development proposal, which ensures that all interested parties are informed, and have the opportunity to comment, before a decision is made.
The Department has approved the closure of seven primary schools, six of which are due to close in August 2006 and one to close in August 2007. The Department has also approved the closure of one post-primary school to take effect in August 2006.
There are currently four other recently published development proposals each for the closure of a primary school, with three proposed to take effect in August 2006 and one in August 2007, on which decisions have not yet been made. There are also two recently published development proposals for the closure of two post-primary schools in August 2007, on which decisions have not yet been made.
In addition, the Department has previously approved the amalgamations of 12 primary schools into four schoolsthese are all planned to take effect before the end of 2007, and approved a further proposal to support the amalgamation of two post-primary schools to form one school with effect from September 2006. Two Development proposals each for the amalgamation of two primary schools to form one school have recently been published and currently under consideration.
Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what security checks are carried out on workers subcontracted to carry out work on school premises, including cleaners and maintenance workers. 
Maria Eagle: It is the responsibility of those contracted by the education and libraries board or other employing authorities, to provide services on school premises, to ensure that their staff pose no risk to children by carrying out a vetting check.
The arrangements for the vetting and selection of persons to work with children in an educational setting were the subject of an urgent review early in 2006 and new guidance covering all aspects was issued to employing authorities, among others, in March in circular 2006/06, Child Protection: Recruitment of People to work with Children and Young People in Educational Settings (available at www.deni.gov.uk)
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the safety of Seroxat for pregnant women suffering from depression; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Goggins: On 7 December 2005 the Chief Medical Officer issued an urgent communication to the Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland attaching a letter from the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) which highlighted new evidence relating to a possible risk of congenital malformations following maternal use of Paroxetine (Seroxat) in the first trimester. The CHM letter contained advice to prescribers and patients on the use of Paroxetine (Seroxat) in pregnancy. The advice indicated that Paroxetine should only be used in pregnancy when strictly indicated and only if the benefits of treatment for the mother are thought to outweigh the potential risk to the foetus.
There is ongoing discussion at a European level on the safety of all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Paroxetine (Seroxat) in pregnancy. Any new advice will be issued as necessary.
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