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29 Oct 2002 : Column 744Wcontinued
19. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the merging of NHS trusts; 
26. Mr. Burnett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his policy for merging acute NHS trusts. 
Mr. Hutton: Ministers will agree to proposals from national health service trusts to merge only if we are persuaded that such a merger is in patients' interests through supporting the delivery of the targets set out in the NHS plan.
20. Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the progress of ambulance trusts in meeting response time targets. 
Mr. Lammy: The goal for ambulance service national health service trusts of reaching 75 per cent. of category A calls within eight minutes is more challenging for some than for others, but the Government remain determined that they all should meet it. While there is more to be done, the ambulance service nationally has made significant progress in recent yearsin 1996 only one trust performed at the level indicated by current targets.
Strategic health authorities are responsible for managing the performance of ambulance trusts. Any trust not meeting its response time targets is required to produce a recovery plan in conjunction with their strategic health authority.
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21. Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to produce final guidance on the proposed fine system to tackle bed blocking. 
Jacqui Smith: We intend to bring legislation forward as soon as possible, including guidance to the national health service and social care about how the system of reimbursement will be administered, in relation to delayed transfers of care.
22. Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans the Government have to increase the number of mental health beds in the NHS. 
Jacqui Smith: Extra central investment enabled the creation of over 500 additional secure beds and 320 24-hour staffed beds by April 2001. There are also NHS plan commitments, which we expect to achieve, to develop 200 long-term secure mental health beds and 140 beds for dangerous people with severe personality disorder by 2004. The main thrust of our policy, however, is to develop community services that can safely treat most mental health patients without hospital admission.
30. Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what incentives are available to attract NHS dentists to work in areas of shortage. 
Mr. Lammy: The Government are committed to modernising national health service dentistry. Over the three year period 200001 to 200203 over #125 million has been made available to the NHS to improve local services. In addition we introduced a scheme in April 1999 to encourage dentists to increase their NHS commitment.
Working with the profession and other stakeholders, the Department, through its Modernisation Agency, is planning shortly to test new models of providing NHS oral health care through the Options for Change programme, building on the learning already available from the personal dental services pilot projects.
31. Mr. McWalter: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that financial considerations do not impede the restoration of maternity and paediatric services to Hemel Hempstead General Hospital. 
Mr. Lammy: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire strategic health authority has agreed with St. Albans Primary Care Trust and Dacorum Primary Care Trust that it will find the necessary funds during this financial year to establish and support the most appropriate model of care at Hemel Hempstead General Hospital. Further discussions are in progress about funding for next year.
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32. Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress is being made with the review of acute hospital services in east Kent. 
Ms Blears: A judicial review of the consultation process undertaken to reach the recommendation on the reconfiguration, of acute services in east Kent is to begin in November. Ministers will need to wait for the legal process to be concluded.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received concerning the Mental Health Bill; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: The Government published a draft Mental Health Bill and consultation document on 25 June. The consultation period ran for 12 weeks and ended on 16 September. We have received over 1,900 formal responses including letters from the public and hon. Members about issues raised in the Bill.
Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the staff by grade and specialty in (a) the elderly care team, (b) the city team, (c) the rural team and (d) other categories in the Salisbury Mental Health Care team; and who funds each person. 
Ms Blears: The information requested is not available centrally.
Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of current available treatments for mesothelioma cancer; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears: A clinical guideline on mesothelioma cancer is being considered by the Department for referral to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. This would consider how mesothelioma should be diagnosed and managed.
Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about the topics that are under consideration for future National Service Frameworks in the Health Service; and how they are selected. 
Jacqui Smith: The national service framework (NSF) programme currently includes frameworks for mental health (1999), coronary heart disease (2000) the [national] Cancer Plan (2000), older people (2001) and diabetes standards (2001). The diabetes NSF delivery strategy is due later this year. Work is in hand on national service frameworks for renal services, childrens services and long term conditions. These frameworks amount to a significant programme of quality improvement across the national health service. We have no plans to amend the programme at present. The criteria for selection are set out in XA First Class Service".
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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the future of regional specialist commissioning groups in respect of neuroscience services. 
Mr. Hutton: The future of regional specialised commissioning groups is being considered as part of the consultation on commissioning arrangements for specialised services for which responses are still coming in. I will be considering the responses and expect to reach conclusions on the way forward by the turn of the year.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on difficulties experienced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in dealing with applications. 
Mr. Hutton: The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) was established on 1 April 2002 and inherited from its predecessor the United Kingdom Central Council its resources, systems and processes for the registration of nurses, midwives and health visitors.
Its establishment coincided with the installation of a new information technology system commissioned by its predecessor which has resulted in a backlog in dealing with new applications.
The NMC has taken action to resolve the issues including improving communications, targeting resources to tackle the backlogs and undertaking a review of systems and processes. I am advised that the NMC has cleared the backlogs in the UK applications and is continuing to target resources at registration applications from those qualified overseas.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the position of elderly residents who are obliged to seek alternative accommodation when nursing homes seek to re-register under a different status. 
Jacqui Smith: If a care home is de-registered, councils should re-assess the needs of the home's supported residents for whom they are responsible to determine the best course of action, which may involve moving residents to another registered care home. In similar circumstances, self-funding residents may turn to councils for information and advice. Where self-funding residents cannot make their own arrangements, councils may make alternative arrangements for them under section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948. When care homes are de-registered, there should be prior consultation with all relevant parties, including the residents and their families.
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