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Air Ambulances

Mr. Truswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on when the research commissioned into the contribution made by air ambulances in the care and transportation of seriously ill patients will be completed; [28977]

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Ms Blears: The Department is commissioning a wide-ranging piece of primary research that will examine the role and effectiveness of air ambulance services in a modern national health service. The first stage is already under way and will provide an up to date review of

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existing research evidence. It is intended that the new primary research will be completed by the end of 2003.

There are currently 12 charitably funded air ambulance services operating in England. Those air ambulances are called out to emergencies by NHS ambulance trusts and generally staffed by NHS staff. Some NHS ambulance trusts are already meeting the salary costs of these staff and, from 1 April 2002, all NHS staff costs will be met from NHS funds.

Resuscitation Policy

Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will draw up a national Do not Resuscitate policy. [29394]

Yvette Cooper: We are committed to ensure best practice in resuscitation decision-making throughout the national health service. In 2000, the Department published new guidance "Resuscitation Policy (Health Service Circular 2000/28)" which reinforces patients' rights on resuscitation decisions and aims to ensure that patients are properly involved.

One of the basic principles of health care is that a competent patient has the right under common law to give or withhold consent to examination or treatment. In the case of patients who are not capable of consenting to treatment, and in the absence of a valid advance refusal of treatment, it is a doctor's duty to act in the best interests of the patient concerned. Decisions must be made on a case by case basis.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures are being taken by his Department to offer cardiac screening for the condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to children about to take part in competitive sport. [29321]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 22 January 2002]: The United Kingdom National Screening Committee (NSC) advises Ministers, the devolved National Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament on all aspects of screening policy. The NSC does not currently recommend screening for cardiomyopathy but is keeping its position under review.

Current policy is that the relatives of a family with a known high risk of contracting this disease should receive regular cardiovascular examinations.

The Department is working closely with the medical profession and voluntary organisations with a view to producing clear clinical guidance, which will play a very important part in raising awareness and improving diagnosis and testing of people at risk.

Herbal Remedies

Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the oral statement of the Under- Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Salford (Ms Blears), on 20 November 2001, Official Report, columns 62–66WH, if he will provide references for the well-documented histories of traditional use of herbal

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remedies in Europe; and if he will list those herbal products which are able to demonstrate a history of 30 years on the market. [29521]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 22 January 2002]: The European Commission's proposals for a directive on the registration of traditional herbal medicinal products include provision for a positive list of herbal substances, which will include any information necessary for their safe use. Where a traditional herbal medicine was within the parameters of that positive list it would not be necessary for applicants to demonstrate evidence of traditional use. Pending negotiations on the directive, the likely timetable for the development of such a list is not yet clear.

Alternatively, under the published proposals, applicants would be able to produce bibliographic or expert evidence of traditional use for herbal medicinal products. Such products have been used extensively in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Union for many years, in the form both of individual remedies made up by herbalists and of manufactured products placed on the market by companies. There is a very wide range of possible sources which, taken together as necessary, potentially could provide the required evidence. These include: authoritative literature on herbalism; the practical evidence of numerous licensed or unlicensed manufactured products on the market in many EU member states; the long-standing lists of herbal medicines accepted as traditional by regulatory authorities in a number of member states; and the testimony of recognised experts on herbalism. This last source may be particularly helpful in confirming the patterns of usage of combinations of herbal ingredients.

Our aim on this issue would be to minimise the regulatory impact on applicants of demonstrating traditional use, consistent with complying with legal requirements. The Medicines Control Agency intends to hold dialogue with the herbal sector with a view to developing guidance or criteria which would help meet this objective. Until these discussions have taken place, we think it would be premature to attempt to define specific acceptable sources in more detail.

Personal Social Services (Coventry)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will increase the money for personal social services in Coventry to match the national average. [28886]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 23 January 2002]: Coventry's personal social services standard spending assessment increases in 2002–03 by about 4 per cent. compared to the national average increase of about 5 per cent. Coventry's increase is below the national average mainly because its population has decreased, whereas the national population has increased. Population size is a key factor in the SSA allocation formulae.

Digital Hearing Aids

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to ensure that digital hearing aids can be provided by every NHS trust in the UK; and when the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust will receive them; [30037]

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Jacqui Smith: We announced on 24 December 2001 that a further £20 million would be made available in 2002–03 for the modernising hearing aid services project. This will mean that by April 2003 at least 50 NHS sites will be fitting digital hearing aids and at least a further 15 will have the necessary training and equipment in place to fit digital hearing aids from 2003–04. Decisions on which sites will become involved in the project next year will be made shortly.

The research evaluation of the modernising hearing aid services project is continuing and a final report is due at the end of this year. Decisions about further roll-out will be taken in the light of this evaluation.

First Aid

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what resources he allocates for the promotion of the importance of training for first aid. [30324]

Yvette Cooper: Within the safety criteria of the national healthy school standard (NHSS) schools are asked to provide opportunities for all pupils to develop health skills in relation to first aid. The healthy schools programme funds education and health partnerships covering all local education authorities to provide expertise and support to schools working to achieve the NHSS.

Additionally, the "Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation" White Paper of 1999 committed £2 million to install defibrillators (small portable electronic devices designed to save the lives of people who have suffered cardiac arrest) in "high traffic" public places such as busy railway stations, airports and large shopping complexes. Since April 2000 60 sites have had defibrillators installed under this initiative, and approximately 2,500 people have received training in basic life support and the use of a defibrillator.

NHS Dentists

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he plans to expand the number of dental access centres in Shropshire. [30405]

Yvette Cooper: Since 1999 we have invested over £1.5 million in the Shropshire dental access centre (DAC). The DAC currently operates from six sites. Two new sites are planned to open in the early months of this year.

Central funding has been approved to employ an extra dentist in the Oswestry site of the DAC from April 2002.

Solihull Hospital

Mr. John Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2001, Official Report, column 152W, on Solihull Hospital, if he will make a further statement on the future status of accident and emergency facilities at Solihull Hospital. [29332]

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Yvette Cooper [holding answer 24 January 2002]: At this time the service review of the accident and emergency department at Solihull Hospital being conducted by the accident and emergency sub-group of the Solihull Modernisation Board is continuing.

This sub-group will be reporting back its findings to the newly established Solihull services review group project board in due course. It will be for the health authority, or its successor body after 31 March, to decide if there is to be any significant change to the service, and if so, this will need to be the subject of a formal consultation process.

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