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Foster Care

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what measures he is proposing to make foster care easier; and if he will make a statement; [34627]

Jacqui Smith: Caring for another person's child is not an easy task and those that take on the role of foster carer perform a very important role for society. The assessment and approval processes ensure that the potential carer has a proper understanding of the task ahead. Additionally, training and support from the fostering service provides carers with the opportunities to further their knowledge, understanding and ability to manage the role they have taken on. The Government is constantly looking for ways in which to better support foster carers. New regulations and national minimum standards will come into force in April and these will form a more comprehensive legislative framework for all concerned with the delivery of fostering.

Foster carers are paid an allowance by the local authority to care for a child. The allowance covers the usual costs of looking after a child, and many local authorities operate a reward payment scheme for their foster carers in addition to the basic allowance. These

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payments are linked to the carer's skills and abilities to meet the needs of children who are fostered, and with their commitment to training and skills development.

Matters relating to Scotland are for the devolved Administration.

Strategic Health Authority

(Shropshire and Staffordshire)

David Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many full-time equivalent posts are planned for the staffing of the new strategic health authority covering Shropshire and Staffordshire. [34803]

Yvette Cooper: In accordance with the Shifting the Balance of Power Document "The Next Steps" paragraph 2.5.5, the staffing levels will be capped at 75 with costs of £4 million. The chief executives are in the process of putting together their franchise plans, in which actual staffing levels will be finalised.


Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what target he has set for waiting time for cancer patients requiring radiotherapy from the NHS. [34821]

Yvette Cooper: [holding answer 8 February 2002]: The NHS Cancer Plan set out waiting time targets for cancer treatment, including radiotherapy, which will be implemented over the next four years. From December 2001, there is a one month maximum wait from diagnosis to treatment for breast cancer and a one month wait from urgent general practitioner referral to treatment for children's, testicular and acute leukaemia. By 2005, there will be a maximum one month wait from diagnosis to treatment for all cancers.

Emergency Contraception

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost to the consumer is of emergency contraception at a pharmacy; what plans he has to lower the charge; and if he will make a statement. [35245]

Yvette Cooper: Emergency contraception is available through direct sale in pharmacies to women aged 16 and over usually at a cost of £19.99. We do not control the prices at which medicines are sold to the public. Emergency contraception remains free of charge from the National Health Service.

Donor Scheme

Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to replace the opt-in donor scheme with an opt-out scheme. [35461]

Jacqui Smith: We have no plans to introduce an opt-out scheme for organ donation. We are in the process of undertaking a comprehensive review of the law governing the taking, removal and use of human tissue, and will be issuing a consultation paper shortly.

Tobacco Products

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what standards the Government sets to protect consumers from toxins in (a) smoking and (b) chewing tobacco products; and whether she has taken advice from the

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(i) Chief Medical Officer and (ii) Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health on appropriate standards for the protection of public health. [34905]

Yvette Cooper: [holding answer 11 February 2002]: Upper limits on tar yields from cigarettes were established by Directive 90/239/EEC and are regulated under the Tobacco Products Labelling (Safety) regulations 1991. The limits will reduce under the provisions of EC Directive 2001/37/EC and limits will also apply to nicotine and carbon monoxide yields.

Additives to tobacco products are assessed using the guidelines detailed in the report to the Chief Medical Officer from the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) (Annex K, appendix 1) as part of the voluntary agreement. It is under this agreement that the Department maintains a list of approved additives with details of individual and aggregate usage limits. The list of approved additives is published on the department of health website at "". Tobacco companies are required to submit annual certificates of compliance with these limits.

Copies of Tobacco Products Labelling (Safety) regulations 1991 and the report from the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) including the guidelines are available in the Library.

NHS Funded Activity (Private Sector)

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether he has completed his review of information needs as regards NHS funded activity in the private sector; and if he will make a statement on his conclusion; [35087]

Mr. Hutton: [holding answer 11 February 2002]: The Department is working to improve the collection of routine information about National Health Service activity undertaken by the independent sector and is making arrangements to collect data on such activity through NHS management information returns to the Department. It will be some time before information gathered in this way is available for publication.

Validation and analysis of the survey returns from the NHS for the Department's survey of NHS organisations' use of the independent sector, is being finalised. We expect to be able to share key findings shortly.

NHS Professionals

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what measures he has introduced to gauge the physical and mental fitness of managers working within NHS Professionals; [35092]

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Mr. Hutton [holding answer 11 February 2002]: The National Health Service Professionals initiative is being implemented nationally in three phased approach, highlighted in detail in "HSC 2001–02 NHS Professionals—Flexible Organisations, Flexible Staff". To date the service has been extended to 38 sites. An evaluation is being undertaken at the moment of the existing sites.

A national project board has been established that includes representatives from the NHS and Department of Health, that is responsible for the development of NHS Professionals. Regional project boards will closely manage the development across regions. Each site has its own project structure to manage and monitor implementation.

This structure will ensure that measures are in place to address:

1. The physical and mental fitness of managers working within NHS Professionals is gauged.

2. Managers working within NHS Professionals having the necessary and appropriate qualifications, skills and experience to provide trusts with temporary health care staff.

3. Need for appropriate training and development to be provided to NHS Professionals' call-centre staff.

4. The size and layout of NHS Professionals' premises are appropriate for the effective management of the services that NHS Professionals provides, and that they are kept clean and suitably equipped and furnished.

5. The financial viability of NHS Professionals.

6. The management structure of NHS Professionals adequately reflects the size of NHS Professionals, and the volume and complexity of the services it provides; and allows for sufficient flexibility for the organisation to

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respond to the changing needs and circumstances of service users and maintain effective quality control systems.

7. The investigation of complaints and monitoring of performance.

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