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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research his Department has commissioned in each of the last five years into the causes and treatments of age-related macular degeneration; what further research he intends to commission; and how much his Department has spent on this research in each of the last five years. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 15 January 2002]: The main Government agency for research into the causes and treatment of disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC), which is funded through the Department of Trade and Industry. MRC expenditure on research since 1997 that is directly relevant to macular degeneration is estimated as follows:
Dr. G. Silvestri Queen's University of Belfast: Refining phenotypic variation in age related macular degeneration.
Professor R. D. Lund: Schwann and schwann cell line transplantation to prevent photoreceptor loss.
Professor U. Chakravarthy: Optical coherence tomography scanning of diseases of the macular of the eye.
Dr. R. W. Yates: Genetic Susceptibility to Age Related Macular Degeneration
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funding. Awards are made according to their scientific quality and importance to human health. The Department has supported, through national and regional programmes, research on macular degeneration. Projects include an on-going project due to complete in July 2002 on "A clinical technique for measuring macular pigment optical density in patients with macular degeneration".
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate his Department has made of the number of people treated in the last year with photodynamic therapy in the private sector following a diagnosis of wet age-related macular degeneration in an NHS hospital. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the therapies licensed in the UK for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration; when they were licensed; how much the NHS has spent on them; and how many people have benefited from them in each of the last three years. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 15 January 2002]: Currently the only product licensed for the indication age- related macular degeneration is Visudyne. A European- wide licence was granted by the European Commission on 27 July 2000. We do not hold information on the number of patients treated with Visudyne or the amount of the product that the national health service has purchased.
Ms Blears [holding answer 15 January 2002]: The treatment is not generally available under the national health service. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is carrying out an appraisal of the use of photodynamic therapy in the treatment of macular disease which they expect to complete in July. The Department has asked NHS bodies to continue with local arrangements for the managed introduction of new technologies where guidance from NICE is not available at the time the technology first became available. These arrangements should involve an assessment of all relevant factors including the available evidence on effect.
Ms Blears [holding answer 15 January 2002]: A recent study sponsored by the Macular Disease Society estimated that there are currently 182,000 people suffering from age-related macular degeneration with a best eye visual acuity below that judged appropriate for certification as blind or partially sighted. The study forecast that this number would increase to 194,000 by 2008.
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notified of appointments to new health authorities and trusts covering their constituencies; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 15 January 2002]: This is a matter for the National Health Service Appointments Commission. At present, all appointments to NHS boards are publicised locally by press release. I have also asked the commission to ensure that hon. Members are informed of all of appointments made to trusts, health authorities and primary care trusts which serve their constituencies.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received from community pharmacists based in Teesside concerning the cut in the fee paid for dispensing NHS prescriptions. 
(3) if he will make a statement on the merits of operating a 24-hour minor accident department at the Westmorland General Hospital; 
(4) how many ambulance emergency cases were taken to the Westmorland General Hospital's emergency and minor accident department in each of the last five years; and how many of these were then taken to Lancaster Royal Infirmary; 
(5) what his plans are for the future of Westmorland General Hospital; and if he will make a statement; 
(6) what assistance he provides to recruit extra staff to work at the Westmorland General Hospital's emergency and minor accident department; 
(7) how many people have been treated at the Westmorland General Hospital's emergency and minor accident department in each of the last five years; and how many of these were treated between the hours of 11.00 pm and 6.00 am; 
(8) if he will ensure that the Westmorland General Hospital's emergency and minor accident department continues to operate on a 24-hour basis; 
(9) what the recommended manpower level is for doctors in an emergency and minor accident department. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 17 January 2001]: Morecambe Bay Hospitals National Health Service Trust and Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust intend to review the delivery of emergency and out-of-hours services for residents of South Lakeland. This work will take place with full public involvement and in the context of existing and developing national guidelines, the local
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modernisation review process and relevant staffing considerations. It is anticipated that detailed information of the nature requested will emerge as part of that exercise. A report, with recommendations, will be produced by 31 May 2002, to be considered by the boards of the trust, primary care trust and Cumbria ambulance service. Any proposals for significant variations in existing service provision would, of course, be subject to full public consultation at a later stage.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent guidance he has issued on the balance of representation from different parliamentary constituencies in cases where several constituencies are covered by the same health authority or NHS trust. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 17 January 2001]: No such guidance has been issued. Appointments to the boards of national health service trusts, health authorities and primary care trusts are now a matter for the NHS Appointments Commission. The commission always aims to ensure that board membership properly reflects the geographical area served by the NHS body.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent guidance he has issued on increasing the representation of (a) women, (b) members of ethnic minority communities and (c) other under-represented groups on NHS trusts and health authorities. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 17 January 2002]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State issues equal opportunities goals and objectives on an annual basis for all public appointments to national health service boards, special health authorities and non-departmental public bodies. The goals and objectives set in July 2001 for achievement by December 2004 are available in the Library.
We have made huge strides over recent years in increasing the proportion of women and black and ethnic minority candidates appointed NHS boards. 49 per cent. of all NHS board members and 41 per cent. of chairs are now women, and 12 per cent. of members are black or from ethnic minorities. This compares with figures of only 39 per cent. and 5 per cent. at the time of the 1997 general election. The proportion of disabled candidates appointed over the last five years has also more than doubled. As a result, the boards of these bodies are now much more representative of the communities they serve.
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action is being taken to seek applications from those living in communities with the greatest health needs for non-executive appointments on health authorities and NHS trusts. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 17 January 2002]: All vacancies for national health service boards are now widely advertised within the communities they serve. Candidates who apply are all assessed on their merits against criteria laid down by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The criteria require among other things that, to be appointed, candidates must be able to demonstrate a commitment to the needs of the local community and have a strong personal commitment to the NHS.
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