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7 Nov 2002 : Column 520Wcontinued
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 24 October 2002]: The Department has not established a foundation trust consultative group. However, the initial framework for policy on National Health Service foundation trusts was developed through consultation with the first cohort of three-star NHS trusts as part of a series of national events on earned autonomy. In addition, Departmental officials have been seeking views from a number of chief executives from several different NHS trusts, primary care trusts, strategic health authorities and from other sources. These discussions have provided an important sounding board for our proposals.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 4 November 2002]: We have not considered any form of voucher system for patients or general practitioners in developing our proposals for the creation of National Health Service foundation trusts. NHS foundation trusts will provide free care for NHS patients according to NHS principles, based on clinical need and not ability to pay.
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Mr. Hutton [holding answer 4 November 2002]: Thirty-one of the acute National Health Service trusts that were awarded three stars in the previous NHS performance ratings announced in 2001 submitted expressions of interest in becoming NHS foundation trusts. We have not however asked for expressions of interest since publication of the new NHS performance ratings in July 2002.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 4 November 2002]: We expect to announce a list of trusts that have been successful in their applications to become first-wave National Health Service foundation trusts later next year.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many hospitals (a) include and (b) exclude angiograms from (i) inpatient and (ii) outpatient waiting lists; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 24 October 2002]: This information is not centrally available at present as waiting times are collected by specialty not procedure. We are investing #65 million New Opportunities Fund money and #15 million Treasury Capital Modernisation Fund money to expand angiography facilities. When completed, this should allow an extra 14,000 angiograms to take place each year. The planning and priorities framework for 200306 sets the National Health Service a target to reduce waiting times for angiography and we plan to monitor progress against this target.
Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many job vacancies there were at (a) administrative assistant or equivalent, (b) administrative officer or equivalent, (c) administrative executive officer, (d) higher executive officer, (e) senior executive officer, (f) grade 7 principal and (g) all positions above grade 7 level in his Department for jobs located in (h) London and (i) the South East between 1st April 2001 and 31st March; and what is the total employment for each Civil Service grade. 
|Responsibility Level||London Region||South East Region|
|Vacancies*||Total Staff||Vacancies*||Total Staff|
|Grades 6 and above||21||120||2||6|
|Senior Executive Officer||55||385||6||38|
|Higher Executive Officer||33||326||5||22|
|Total Non-Industrial Staff||318||2,477||24||188|
* Expressed as numbers of staff recruitedwe have no information on numbers of unfilled vacancies
7 Nov 2002 : Column 522W
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 29 October 2002]: The NHS Plan outlined that the maximum inpatient wait will be reduced in stages from 18 months to six months by the end of 2005. The maximum wait for a first outpatient appointment with a consultant will be three months by the end of 2005.
Ms Blears [holding answer 31 October 2002]: Scrapie is not known to be transmissible to humans. Nonetheless there is a theoretical risk that the occurrence of apparent scrapie cases may be concealing BSE in sheep. The question of appropriate precautionary and advisory action to protect and inform consumers about this risk has been extensively considered and publicised by the Food Standards Agency in recent times.
The European Commission has meanwhile issued proposals for action amongst other things to prevent certain susceptible sheep from entering the food chain. These proposals relate only to those holdings where scrapie has been confirmed as present.
Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of ambulance response times to category A calls by the East Midlands Ambulance Trust in (a) the county of Rutland and (b) the Melton Borough Council area were achieved within eight minutes in the last period for which figures are available; for those responses which took longer than eight minutes, how long it took for the ambulance to respond; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 4 November 2002]: Information on Category A 999 response times for the County of Rutland or the Melton Borough Council area is not available. The activities for these two areas are monitored as part of the East Midlands Ambulance Service.
7 Nov 2002 : Column 523W
Government's target response times for the East Midlands Ambulance NHS Trust, and all other ambulance trusts, is contained in the Department of Health Statistical Bulletin ''Ambulance Services, England 200102''.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the strength of Vitamin B6 when used for (a) countering heart disease and (b) female hormone control, in the light of the Food Standards Agency's report on safe maximum dosages; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 4 November 2002]: There is epidemiological evidence that homocysteine is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and increasing levels of some B vitamins, including B6, may reduce blood levels of homocysteine. However, there is not yet conclusive evidence that reducing blood homocysteinethrough increased intake of B vitaminshas a direct impact on the incidence of CVD. There are on-going randomised controlled trials assessing the impact of lowering homocysteine levels on the incidence of heart disease.
The evidence to date suggests that B6 may have a positive effect on pre-menstrual symptoms, but this is based on limited information from poor quality trials. Further trials are required to confirm an association.
The expert group on vitamins and minerals (EVM) was asked to advise on the safety of intakes of vitamins and minerals in food supplements and fortified foods. The EVM was not asked to consider the beneficial effects of the vitamins and minerals under consideration, although nutritional need was taken into account to ensure that safe upper levels were not set at a level below dietary requirements.
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