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Mr. Hain: Since my appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in May 2005 until the end of June 2006, I have stayed overnight in Northern Ireland on 79 occasions. In the same period I have also spent 130 days in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I also carry out Northern Ireland duties from the NIO Office in London and in Parliament, as every one of my predecessors has done.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 29 June, Official Report, column 600W, on MS treatment, how much of the additional £2 million identified for multiple sclerosis treatment has been allocated to the Western Health and Social Services Board; how much of that it is planned to receive; and what plans the Board has for that money. 
Paul Goggins: The additional £2 million to improve access to disease modifying therapies for people with MS has been allocated to Health and Social Services Boards on a capitation basis. The Western Board's allocation, and the amount it will receive, is £343,000. The Board will use the funding to improve treatment for patients on the waiting list for disease modifying therapies, as well as new patients who come forward.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what initial assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the new guidelines on the treatment of obesity in Northern Ireland. 
Paul Goggins: A guideline on the management of obesity in secondary care, issued by the Clinical Resource and Efficiency Support Team (CREST) in June 2005, has not been assessed for its effectiveness by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. CREST is an independent group comprised of local healthcare professionals from a range of backgrounds. The Department does not formally assess the effectiveness of CREST guidance.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently developing guidance on the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children. This guidance is due to be published in November 2006 and, under the Departments link with the institute, will be assessed for its applicability to the health and personal social services in Northern Ireland, The review of applicability will not include an assessment of the effectiveness of the NICE guidance. In linking with NICE, the Department accepts the professionalism and expertise of the institutes guidance development process and is not seeking to duplicate this process in Northern Ireland.
David Cairns: The planning process does not differentiate between organic and non organic farm development. It is recognised that as agriculture continues to change and develop, it is important that the planning process continues to support operational needs.
Under the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 1993, certain development relating to agriculture and forestry is permitted development (PD) i.e. a planning application is not required as permission is deemed to be granted.
Where a proposal is not PD and express permission is required, planning permission will be granted for agricultural and forestry building/works subject to certain criteria and policy requirements. Any application is very much site specific and is treated on its own merits subject to detailed planning and environmental criteria.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average waiting time was for an initial paediatric cardiology assessment in the Province in the last period for which figures are available 
Waiting list information is collected by time band. It is therefore not possible to calculate the arithmetic mean (average) length of time waiting. It is however possible to identify the median or mid point waiting time band. Current median (average) waiting times for children waiting an initial paediatric cardiology out-patient assessment, in each applicable Health and Social Services Trust, are shown in the following table.
|HSS Trust||Median waiting times for an out-patient paediatric cardiology assessment (months|
Health and Social Service Trusts
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many patients are waiting for an initial paediatric cardiology assessment within the Ulster Community and Hospital Trust area, broken down by the length of time which has been waited. 
The number of patients waiting for an initial outpatient assessment in the paediatric
cardiology specialty at the Ulster hospital at 31 May 2006 by length of time waiting is provided in the following table.
| Source: Ulster Community and Hospitals Group HSS Trust|
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the total cost of pharmaceutical payments in Northern Ireland was in the last five years; what the total net ingredient cost was; and what the gross cost was per person. 
|Gross cost, net ingredient cost and gross cost per person, 2001 to 2005|
|Gross cost||Net ingredient cost||Gross cost per person|
| Source: Central Services Agency|
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average cost per prescription item in Northern Ireland was in each of the last five years; what the total number of prescription forms was; and what was the average number of prescription items per person was in each year. 
|Total number of prescription items, average cost per prescription item and average number of prescription items per person, 2001 to 2005|
|Total number of prescription items||Average gross cost per prescription item (£)||Average number of prescription items per person|
| Source: Central Services Agency|
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made on the 10 year strategy to reduce respiratory disease in Northern Ireland announced on 9 June 2005. 
Paul Goggins: A draft strategy for respiratory disease was published for consultation in June 2005. A final document A Healthier Future: A Strategic Framework for Respiratory Conditions was formally launched on 15 March 2006 by my hon. Friend, the Member for St. Helens South.
The framework recommends that a network of local multidisciplinary respiratory groups should be established to facilitate and co-ordinate the implementation of the strategy in their area. The work of these local groups will be overseen by a Regional Respiratory Forum which will comprise the lead professionals from each of the local groups. The Health and Social Services Boards are currently taking steps to constitute their local groups and the establishment of the regional forum will follow later this year.
In 2006-07 the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety has invested an additional £3 million through the QMS Contract in a Directed Enhanced
Service to help people with respiratory conditions. These resources will be used to provide effective self-management training to enable people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to manage their own conditions more effectively and to provide care and rehabilitative services to improve the long-term health and wellbeing of these patients.
For those trusts who have electronic data systems in place, data extracts have been requested and work is due to begin on merging these extracts in mid-July. Work is in progress to develop an electronic solution for the trusts that currently have manual systems and the development of detailed data definitions is underway, Unvalidated data on accident and emergency waiting times should be available by end September 2006.