Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the further research commissioned by the Department regarding public funding for air ambulances will report; and who is conducting the research. 
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 existing evidence. This work is being undertaken by the medical care research unit at Sheffield University and will be completed by May 2002. No decision has been taken yet on who will undertake the next stage of research but it is intended that it will be completed by the end of 2003.
Jacqui Smith: Health service circular 1999176 advises national health service bodies to use their existing arrangements to determine local prescribing policies, using the publicly available evidence to inform their decision. Local policies may therefore reflect differing assessments and interpretations of evidence along with differing local circumstances and priorities.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has been asked to appraise the use of infliximab (Remicade) and etanecerpt (Enbrel) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis for adults and etanercept only for juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Unless there are appeals, NICE expects to issue its guidance in March 2002 for etanercept for JIA and guidance on the etanercept and infliximab appraisal for adults in April 2002. NICE also has anakinra for rheumatoid arthritis on their appraisal work programme and guidance is expected in July 2003, providing there are no appeals.
Mr. Pond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the level of funding for arthritis treatments and medication was in each of the last five financial years for which records are available; and what level is estimated for (a) this and (b) the next financial year. 
Jacqui Smith: The information requested is not collected centrally as the drugs budgets of health authorities and primary care trust are not determined centrally. They receive unified allocations to cover the
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costs of hospital and community health services, discretionary funding for general practice staff, premises and computers and primary care prescribing.
The level of funding made available for arthritis drugs is therefore a local decision. It is for health authorities in partnership with primary care groups/trusts and other local stakeholders to determine how best to use their funds.
Ms Blears [holding answer 5 March 2002]: The concept of care closer to home as identified by the National Beds Inquiry (NBI) underpins our plans for modernising the national health service. To this end maximum use needs to be made of cottage hospitals and primary care organisations in delivering and co-ordinating the local population's care. Cottage hospitals are working hard to develop their roles, for example in carrying out day surgery, minor procedures and caring for patients in the recuperative phases of recovery from illness or accident. They will be key players in meeting our target of introducing an additional 5,000 intermediate care bedsthe bridge between hospital and homeby 2004.
Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures his Department has undertaken to ensure that fostering agencies are able to carry out police checks on prospective foster carers. 
Jacqui Smith: Under the Foster Placement (Children) Regulations 1991, agencies are required to seek criminal record checks on prospective foster carers. Checks may be made through the Criminal Records Bureau, which began processing applications on 11 March 2002. The checks will also include information from the Department's Protection of Children Act List and Department for Education and Skills' List 99.
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(3) what the waiting times are for in-patient treatment for cancer at the Maidstone hospital. 
No assessment of costs for transferring patients to Maidstone hospital has been carried out as a decision on the future role of Kent and Canterbury hospital, resulting from the reconfiguration of acute services, has not been made.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many beds in residential and nursing homes for the elderly in Greater London there were on (a) 31 March 1997 and (b) the latest available date. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 18 March 2002]: Information on the number of residential places and registered nursing beds for older people, in Greater London, at 31 March each year, is shown in the table.
|Residential care places for older people(29)
|Registered nursing(30) beds for older people
(28) Nursing bed figures relate to the period 1 October 1996 to 31 March 1997.
(29) Includes residential care beds for older people who are mentally infirm people.
(30) Includes nursing care beds in private hospitals and clinics.
Department of Health's annual return.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how long his Department estimates it has taken for care homes to be built from the initial application being submitted to the relevant planning department in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures the National Care Standards Commission has at its disposal to enforce the minimum standard that relates to contracts between care homes and individuals. 
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Jacqui Smith [holding answer 18 March 2002]: The commission has the ability to take enforcement action in relation to the Care Homes Regulations 2001. The national minimum standards will be the basis for the commission to determine whether the regulations are complied with. In relation to contracts the relevant standards are standard 2 for care homes for older people, and standard 5 for care homes for younger adults.
Regulations will be mandatory and providers must comply with them. If a regulation is breached, the breach of which is an offence, providers will be given a notice setting out the regulation breached, how the service is considered deficient, what must be done to remedy the deficiency, and a time scale within which the deficiency must be remedied. If the deficiency is not remedied, proceedings for prosecution may follow. The breach of regulation 5 of the Care Homes Regulations 2001, which states that a service users' guide should include a standard form of contract for the provision of services and facilities by the registered provider to service users, is an offence.
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 18 March 2002]: The Department has commissioned the production of a new booklet containing key information that individuals should have when they are moving into, or resident in, a care home. It will include the contributions that residents may make to care home fees and other financial aspects. The booklet is currently being finalised, and it will be made available in hard copy to all councils with social services responsibilities and a range of relevant voluntary and community organisations. Other means are being considered to ensure the widest possible circulation.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will issue a direction to require NHS bodies to use the central core contract for how NHS nursing contribution received by care homes is to be accounted for. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 18 March 2002]: I have strongly recommended that national health service bodies use the Department's core contract, recognising that some flexibility will also be required to reflect particular local arrangements in any agreed contract.