Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) on what basis the decision was made to require 30 years' continuous usage to be demonstrated before a licence could be obtained for herbal medicinal products as specified in the EU traditional herbal medicinal products directive; and if he will make a statement; 
Ms Blears: The recent proposal by the European Commission for a directive of the European Parliament and Council on traditional herbal medicinal products will be subject to the normal processes of scrutiny and negotiation applicable to proposals for European legislation.
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The proposed directive would not affect the existing arrangements whereby a marketing authorisation may be obtained for a herbal medicine, based on evidence of safety, quality and efficacy. The directive would, however, put in place an additional route to the market for traditional herbal medicines under which evidence of traditional use would replace the requirement to demonstrate efficacy and, in many cases, also allow a simplified safety assessment. Any figure for a stipulated period of use, such as 30 years, which may be agreed during negotiations is likely to be one which is generally recognised by European Union member states as indicating that a herbal medicine can reasonably be accepted as having genuinely traditional usage.
Herbal medicines with a marketing authorisation and those with a traditional use registration would typically be likely to share similar product characteristics. The proposed quality standards are already successfully met by the many companies, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Union, which hold marketing authorisations in relation to herbal medicines. Existing European regulatory guidelines on herbal medicines are intended to be applied in a way that is appropriate to the product under consideration and we envisage that this would continue to be the case under a traditional use registration scheme.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the equipment leasing arrangements entered into by his Department in each of the last four years; and what the cost is to public funds in each case. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures he has taken to address the issues identified in the 10 Annual report of the Chief Inspector of Social Services 200001 paragraph 3.71 regarding domiciliary care. 
Jacqui Smith: We expect that the National Minimum Standards for domiciliary care will be implemented from July 2002. Quality issues such as reliability of domiciliary care are addressed in the draft National Minimum Standards, which we published in October 2001. Decisions about registration of domiciliary care agencies by the National Care Standards Commission will take account of compliance with the Standards.
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and (c) all buildings in the NHS estate in England are classified as being in Estatecode condition (i) A, (ii) B, (iii) C and (iv) D. 
Ms Blears: Information in respect of the percentage of 'essential' and 'non-essential' buildings in the National Health Service Estate which are classified as being in Estatecode condition A, B, C, D, is not collected centrally. Similarly, information that is collected centrally in respect of the percentage of 'all buildings' relates to NHS trusts and is not broken down into the A, B, C, D classifications.
The latest available figure for 200001 indicates this figure to be 18 per cent. In comparison with the previous year when the figure was 24 per cent, this indicates a general reduction in the percentage of the estate in which 'all buildings' are below physical conditions A and B.
Yvette Cooper: Information collected centrally about the cause of deaths does not systematically record whether a death is attributable to alcohol misuse. A number of health and lifestyle factors can contribute to diseases such as cancer, stroke and coronary heart disease, and it can be difficult to isolate alcohol consumption as the most important of these factors.
Ms Blears: Within the Sexual Health & Substance Misuse branch, there are 20 staff members working on drug treatment, drug prevention and alcohol issues. Within the wider Department, staff from other branches work alongside the dedicated substance misuse team e.g. statisticians and finance experts. It is not possible to quantify numbers as they work in a wide range of policy areas.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the private hospitals which have carried out operations on behalf of the NHS since 1997; what has been the total cost incurred to the NHS in respect of each private hospital which has carried out operations on behalf of the NHS over that time; and what the total cost of all operations carried out in private hospitals in the UK and abroad on behalf of the NHS has been since 1997. 
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For information on the total cost of all operations carried out in private hospitals in the United Kingdom and abroad, I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) on 15 November 2001, Official Report, column 855W.
Mrs. Betty Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will introduce or amend regulations in order to provide free NHS prescriptions for medication required to treat cystic fibrosis. 
Ms Blears: Our policy for national health service prescriptions dispensed in England is that, with the exception of contraceptives, exemption applies to a person rather than to the type of medication prescribed. Further, our policy is to give priority to helping people who may have difficulty in paying charges, rather than extending the exemption arrangements to people with other medical conditions including cystic fibrosis. Arrangements for NHS prescriptions dispensed in Wales are a matter for the National Assembly for Wales.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting times in accident and emergency units were in each (a) constituency and (b) health authority in England since 1992; and what the most recent 12 month figures are. 
90 per cent. of patients attending Accident and Emergency to wait 4 hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge by March 2003.
Information on the number of patients waiting from admission from an accident and emergency department is also collected and the latest information is available on the Department's website www.doh.gov.uk/hospitalactivity.
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Mr. Hutton [holding answer 5 March 2002]: At present, no procedures are guaranteed a six-month maximum waiting time. However, from 1 April 2002, all patients waiting for their first out-patient appointment will be guaranteed to be seen within six months. This is in line with the targets set out in the NHS Plan.
The NHS Plan sets out this Government's targets for improving NHS waiting times. By the end of March 2005, the maximum waiting time for all in-patients will have been cut from 18 now down to 15, 12, nine and eventually to six months and the maximum waiting time for initial out-patient appointments will be cut to three months. Urgent cases will continue to be treated in preference and in accordance with clinical need.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if health purchasing authorities set minimum waiting times in contracts with NHS and independent providers; and if he has offered guidance on securing minimum waiting times. 
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 5 March 2002]: Maximum waiting times for first out-patient appointments from GP referral and for in-patient appointments are set out in the NHS Plan. From 1 April 2002, the maximum waiting time from GP referral to a first outpatient appointment will be six months and the maximum waiting time for an in-patient appointment will be 15 months. Maximum waiting times will fall on a staged basis each year up to 2005, when the maximum waiting time for a first out-patient appointment will be three months and the maximum waiting time for an in-patient appointment will be six months.
Primary care organisations and strategic health authorities are expected to purchase adequate care from NHS and independent health care providers in order to ensure patients are treated within the maximum waiting times standards.