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Ms Blears: We have agreed, in principle, to implement certain changes proposed jointly by the general practitioners committee of the British Medical Association and the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee to the regulations governing the award of national health service dispensing rights in rural areas. The changes are intended to increase stability for rural pharmacies and dispensing practices.
Mr. Hutton: Information in the form requested is not available. The indicative average retirement age, based on past experience, of principal and assistant medical practitioners, in normal health, at each quinquennial valuation of the National Health Service Pension Scheme for England and Wales is set out in the table.
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Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 19 July 2001, Official Report, column 434W, on the private finance initiative, if he will state the average savings as a percentage of the public sector comparator for the 23 hospitals cited in his answer; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: The savings of the private finance initiative option as a percentage of the public sector comparators for the 23 hospitals range from less than 1 per cent. to 7.14 per cent., with the average being 1.75 per cent.
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personal social services settlement for 200102 over 200001 is now 4.7 per cent. in real terms compared with 3.7 per cent. before this grant was announced. Similarly, the increase is now 3.7 per cent. in 200203 compared with 2.9 per cent. before this grant was announced.
Recognising the key role that local government has to play in delivering community services, £80 million of this funding has been provided by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, and a further £20 million from Her Majesty's Treasury. The remaining £200 million will come from resources the Department has identified which previously were not earmarked for social services.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure improvements take place in the running of Coventry and Warwickshire University Hospital Trust following the publication of the recent report by the Commission for Health Improvement. 
Mr. Hutton: The Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) report highlighted several issues at the Coventry and Warwickshire University Hospitals national health service trust that need to be improved. The trust was given three months to produce an agreed action plan for improvement, and is also expected to show signs of improved performance during this time.
Officials from the West Midlands Regional Office (WMRO) met the executive directors of the trust to give feedback and guidance on the formulation of their action plan. This is an evolving strategy requiring further work to demonstrate how the change will be delivered. The performance of the trust will be monitored monthly by officials from the WMRO during the initial three month period.
Jacqui Smith: [holding answer 23 October 2001]: By the end of September 2001, 11,080 digital hearing aids had been provided for adults and children as part of the "modernising national health service hearing aid services" project. 10,552 hearing aids were for adults and 528 hearing aids were for children.
Last year, the Department estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people would benefit from being involved in the project. We now expect more than 20,000 digital hearing aids to have been prescribed, and 18,000 adults to have digital hearing aids, as part of the modernisation project, by March 2002.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent estimate his Department has made of the cost of making digital hearing aids universally available among the hard of hearing; 
Jacqui Smith: The Department has received recent correspondence from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People about the modernisation of hearing aid services and the availability of digital hearing aids.
The Institute of Hearing Research is evaluating the "modernising national health service hearing aid services" project, which includes collecting information on the cost of providing hearing aids. The evaluation report will help planning of the further modernisation of hearing aid services.
Subject to favourable evaluation, we have earmarked funding to support modernisation of hearing aid services and expect to invest up to an extra £25 million by 200304. The cost of providing digital hearing aids will be determined by the speed and scale of modernisation.
Jacqui Smith: We do not collect figures of the number of young people under the age of 18 who are diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome. The prevalence is estimated to be in the region of three to six per thousand children in the general population.
Jacqui Smith: Parents of young people with Tourette's Syndrome should expect to receive support to help understand their child's difficulty and to assist in their child's care from services that are treating the child. Parents can seek additional information and advice from the Tourette Syndrome (United Kingdom) Association.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Care, with specific reference to the provision of free personal care; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: [holding answer 26 October 2001]: We announced our response to the Royal Commission on Long Term Care in the annexe to the NHS Plan which we published in July 2000, copies of which are available in the Library.
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by the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: Registration is a matter for the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC). However, the UKCC advises that a number of these applications for registration have now been processed. The UKCC is awaiting further information in order to complete the work on the remaining applications.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what date he expects to meet his target of raising the share of national income spent on health in England to the average level of the other countries in the European Union; what his estimate is of the current gap between these two figures; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: We aim to increase total health expenditure in the United Kingdom up to the average of the countries of the European Union, which is around eight per cent. of gross domestic product. By the end of the present spending review period (200304), we expect that total UK expenditure on health will have reached 7.7 per cent. of gross domestic product. Spending beyond this period will be decided in future spending reviews.
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