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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Since Sassou Nguesso took power in October 1997 we have kept official contact with the authorities in the Republic of the Congo to a minimum. These low-level technical contacts have included discussions of consular cases, immigration and visa matters, debt reclamation and over-flight clearances and permission for British troops to land in Brazzaville to facilitate a possible evacuation of British citizens from Kinshasa.
On 30 June 1998, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Africa Director met Congolese Foreign Minister Adada in London. He left Mr. Adada in no doubt of the importance the UK and the international community place on free and inclusive electoral process in which all the key players, including former leaders Lissouba and Kolelas, could participate if they wished. He also called for the immediate withdrawal of Angolan troops from the Republic of Congo.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The New Deal on junior doctors' hours is closely linked to the Calman reforms. The New Deal has brought about significant improvements to the living and working conditions of junior doctors by ensuring that their hours are restricted and that they receive appropriate rest. This means that they are better able to deliver patient care and to benefit from their training. The Government have commissioned an in-depth national evaluation of the Calman reforms of specialist medical training, which is being undertaken by the Joint Centre for Education in Medicine. The evaluation, which is being conducted over a three-year period, includes an investigation of the effects of the reforms on service delivery capacity and quality of patient care.
Baroness Hayman: The Department of Health is currently working on a set of national standards and protocols for the NHS Direct service. These will be published early in the year 2000 in good time for national roll-out at the end of that year.
The National Health Service Executive Regional Offices are responsible for the performance management of NHS Direct providers. A national approach to performance management will be put in place alongside the development of national standards.
Baroness Hayman: The Medical Research Unit at Sheffield University is undertaking an independent evaluation of the first wave pilot areas of NHS Direct. It will be presenting an interim report to the Department of Health in December of this year and its final report in the autumn of 1999. We plan to publish the findings from both reports.
The Department of Health funds a range of research and development to support its work on policy development and evaluation in health and social care. The department also manages the National Health Service Research and Development Levy, which is used both to support R&D of relevance to the NHS both in NHS hospitals, general practice and other health care settings, and to fund the NHS R&D Programme. In addition, the MRC (Medical Research Council--which receives most of its income via grant-in-aid from the Office of Science and Technology in the Department for
Information is not currently held centrally on all projects funded through the NHS R&D Levy, but the NHS R&D Programme has been funding a research project entitled "Should GPs manage chronic fatigue syndrome? A controlled trial", which has now reported. This project used the "Oxford" or Centre for Diseases Control criteria. Further work is about to be commissioned on the topic of Management Strategies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The research methods and definitions to be used have not yet been agreed.
The MRC is funding one study in relation to myalgic encephalomyelitis which is about to be completed. The work is being undertaken at the University of Manchester and the project is entitled "The role of noradrenaline in the neuropsychological pathogenesis of the chronic fatigue syndrome". This project also used the "Oxford" or Centre for Diseases Control criteria.
Baroness Hayman: Priorities for funding research in the department are set very carefully, based on the burden of disease and other criteria. Bids for conducting research into chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) are therefore always considered on that basis. The department continues to fund research into the management and treatment of CFS/ME through the National Health Service Research and Development Programme.
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