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Domestic Violence

Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to propose amendments to the Protection of Children Act 1999 to offer greater protection to children subject to child contact orders where there is a history of domestic violence. [119281]

Mr. Hutton: We have no plans to amend the Protection of Children Act 1999 in this way because it is aimed at a different set of issues; primarily at preventing those considered unsuitable to work with children from doing so.

Contact orders are granted under the Children Act 1989 and when there is a history of domestic violence, greater protection may be offered to children through the court specifying that contact takes place within a contact centre. Additionally, contact may take place in such centres on a supervised basis. An inter-departmental group is looking currently at the funding arrangements and provision of child contact centres as part of the Government's programme on domestic violence--documented in "Living Without Fear (1999)".

The operation of the Children Act is kept under close review and serious consideration is given to any changes that might provide greater protection to children with violent parents.

Hospital Food

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the cost of providing food to hospital patients, broken down by (a) staffing costs, (b) food costs and (c) other costs, in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [119660]

2 May 2000 : Column: 49W

Ms Stuart: Costs for provisions and kitchen and contract hotel services are collected from the trust financial returns and the latest firm information is for the 1998-99 financial year; this is shown in the table.

Information on staffing costs and food costs for providing food to hospital patients is not collected centrally.

Provisions and Kitchen(6)257,633,466
Contract Hotel Services(7)246,267,545

(6) Provisions and kitchen includes the purchase of provisions, hardware and crockery.

(7) Contract hotel services contains contract catering and laundry contracts.

Nursing Home Care

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to change the way in which nursing home care is financed; and if he will make a statement. [119661]

Mr. Hutton: We are considering all the Royal commission recommendations on the funding of long-term care in the context of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review. Decisions will be announced later this year.

Aventis T25 Maize

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 5 April 2000, Official Report, column 502W, on Aventis T25 maize, what was the voluntary scheme under which the application was made; how the application was (a) processed and (b) determined; who were the animal feed experts who advised him on the safety of T25 GM maize for animal feed; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the application, together with copies of the correspondence relating to the animal feed application between himself, his advisers and the company. [119304]

Ms Stuart [holding answer 17 April 2000]: I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that the voluntary scheme related to novel food safety assessment and was operated by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). Although there was no equivalent scheme for novel animal feeds, the dossier of information was also considered by officials with expertise on animal feed matters. However, at this time, in the middle of 1996, the application from France under Council Directive 90/220/EEC for European Community marketing consent began to be considered. I am placing in the Library a copy of the advice from the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Plants. This explains, among other things, the animal feed issues considered prior to the granting of EC marketing consent for this crop. I am also placing in the Library copies of correspondence between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the applicant company culminating in the then Parliamentary Secretary's letter which was based on advice from the ACNFP.

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Air Ambulances

Mrs. Fiona Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations have been made to him regarding the central funding of emergency air ambulances, with particular reference to the one operating in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. [119758]

Ms Stuart: While a number of representations have been made on the use of helicopters in the National Health Service, none have been made about the central funding of an air ambulance service in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.

Community Nurses

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent discussions he has had with health trusts and local authorities concerning parking arrangements for community nurses; [119734]

Ms Stuart: Mileage and travelling entitlements for National Health Service staff on national contracts are determined by an agreement of the General Whitley Council. A working group of the Council which includes representatives from trades unions and employers is reviewing existing provisions with the aim of recommending new arrangements which are fair to staff, meet service needs and reflect our wider environmental policies. The Inland Revenue have been consulted as part of this review.

As part of the consultation process for Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' "Planning Policy Guidance 13", a number of NHS acute and community trusts were contacted to ascertain the likely implications of the proposed maximum car parking standards being applied to NHS hospitals.

"Fit for the Future?"

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to announce his conclusions based on the responses received to "Fit for the Future?"; and if he will make a statement. [119738]

Mr. Hutton: We intend to publish the finalised standards for care homes for older people later this year.

We are still considering the comments we received on "Fit for the Future?" before finalising the standards and the timetable for implementing them. However, we indicated our initial thinking in some key areas on 15 February 2000, Official Report, column 176WH.

We believe that some of the 260 proposals in "Fit for the Future?" may only have a marginal impact on the quality of care and it is highly unlikely that this many standards will be needed.

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We do not accept that fixed ratios are the best means of specifying the number and qualifications of staff to be employed in a nursing home. For qualified nurses, numbers should relate to the assessed needs of residents at any one time. We are considering what models of assessment should be recognised by the National Care Standards Commission for this purpose and how nursing needs are defined so that nurse staffing levels can be set accurately and realistically.

We are looking very carefully at the proposed standards on the physical environment of care homes. These must take account of the high levels of physical frailty that many older residents in care homes have. In determining room size it is important to bear in mind aspects such as quality of life and safety for residents and staff. However, we do not intend to impose unreasonable physical standards on existing homes. Physical standards will be set at a level already being met by some providers and which other providers should be able to meet over time.

None of the standards will be introduced until at least 2002 when the Commission takes on its regulatory function. Some of the more challenging standards will not be implemented until some time after that. Providers will be given realistic timescales in which to meet any new standards.

Mental Health

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans there are for primary care groups to commission mental health services. [120032]

Mr. Denham: Health authorities are able to delegate to their primary care groups responsibility for commissioning most hospital and community health services, including mental health services. The range of services which each primary care group is responsible for commissioning is a matter for agreement between it and its health authority. As primary care groups develop, we expect them to take on responsibility for commissioning more services, including mental health.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much of the planned increase in health spending in each of the next three years will be spent on mental health (a) in total and (b) in each region (i) in cash terms and (ii) as a percentage of the planned increase. [120031]

Mr. Hutton: Last year we announced our vision for mental health services, "Modernising Mental Health Services", with an additional £700 million of funding for health and social services during the comprehensive spending review period (1999-2000 to 2001-02). Since then, in the last budget, significant extra resources were made available to the NHS in each of the next four years. Decisions on the disposition of these resources have yet to be finalised.

It is therefore not possible to identify all of the additional resources that will be available for spend on mental health over the next four years.

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