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13 Jan 2003 : Column 495W—continued

Halal Foods

Mr. Dhanda: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to introduce legislation to regulate the sale of halal foods. [89027]

Ms Blears: There are no plans. However, the Food Standards Agency is about to issue advice to food law enforcement officers on halal food issues, and they will be asked to have regard to this advice and consider action under appropriate legislation where this is necessary.

Health Provision

Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what areas of public health provision are supplied in competition with the private sector. [88591]

Ms Blears: In general there is no competition between the private and public sector in the provision of public health. An occasional exception is the complementary provision of microbiological pathology laboratory services by the Public Health Laboratory Service and the National Health Service, where some private laboratories also provide analysis of food environmental and water samples. At local level it is for primary care groups to determine the mix of public/

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private provision and public sector providers may tender for contracts, for example, those advertised in the Official Journal of the European Communities.


Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to end the differences in funding for children's hospices and adult hospices in Leicestershire; [88629]

Ms Blears: Guidance was issued in 1998 entitled XEvaluation of the Pilot Project Programme for Children with Life Threatening Illnesses". This evaluation included the role of children's hospices. Further consideration will be given to this role during the preparation of the national service framework for children. It will also be highlighted through the New Opportunities Funding for children's palliative care projects—and I understand this funding will be available shortly. Purchasing decisions for health care services, including palliative care services, will however remain a matter for local primary care trusts. Hospices serving the needs of either children or adults need to engage with PCTs and negotiate funding for services provided, from that which has been made available.

Hospital Beds

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the definition is of a hospital bed for statistical purposes. [85773]

Mr. Lammy: The full definition of what is counted as a hospital bed for statistical purposes is included in the National Health Service information authority's data dictionary, available through their website at

In summary, a bed includes a device that may be used to permit a patient to lie down when the need to do so is as a consequence of the patient's condition rather than the need for active intervention such as examination, diagnostic investigation, manipulation/treatment, or transport.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made towards a clearer labelling system on animal meat products to ensure that the consumer can tell where the animal (a) originated and (b) was slaughtered. [89084]

Ms Blears [holding answer 8 January 2003]: Compulsory labelling rules already apply to all fresh, chilled and frozen beef and veal, including mince. These rules require information about the country or countries of birth, rearing, slaughter and cutting to be given on the label. The European Commission is expected to submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council

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later this year on extending the scope of these rules to cover processed products containing beef, and beef based products.

The Government wants to see compulsory origin labelling on a wider range of foods, particularly other meats and meat ingredients in meat products, and statutory controls on the use of terms like Xproduce of". The European Commission has identified rules on origin labelling as one of the key issues to be taken forward in a comprehensive review of food labelling legislation, which is due to be initiated shortly.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust decision on the use of NHS professionals. [84599]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 2 December 2002]: The Leeds Teaching Hospitals National Health Service Trust has decided not to renew their two-year contract with their current provider of NHS Professionals when it expires in June 2003.

However the trust remains completely committed to the principles of NHS Professionals. They are keen to see improvements in the management of temporary staffing and achieving the NHS Professionals standards. The trust is working with the local work force development and NHS Professionals to ensure the timescales and standards set by the Department of Health on temporary staffing are met before their current contract expires.

Looked After Children

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which 10 authorities have the (a) highest and (b) lowest numbers of looked-after children listed as missing. [88516]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 7 January 2003]: The total number of looked-after children who went missing from their usual place of residence at any time during the year ending 31 March 2001 was 920. There are currently no statistics available to distinguish the 10 local authorities with the highest and lowest numbers of looked-after children listed as missing.

Data on children who have gone missing from care is obtained from the Department of Health form SSDA903, a statistical return completed by local authorities for one third of all looked-after children. As these data are based on a one-third sample and the figures reported by authorities on children missing from care are small, it is not possible to produce a reliable comparison across authorities. In addition, analysis on the sample numbers has shown that there is a wide variation in the figures between local authorities-suggesting inconsistency in recording practices which may in turn suggest under-reporting. The figures may therefore be under-stating the actual numbers of children who go missing from care during the year.

The SSDA903 data collection will start recording information for 100 per cent. of looked-after children for the year ending 31 March 2004. A robust analysis of

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children missing from care by local authority will be possible when those results are analysed in the autumn of 2004.

Mental Health

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on how his Department ensures that every mental health patient has access to a general practitioner. [86160]

Jacqui Smith: Improving the quality of and access to care is a strategic priority for the National Health Service. Anyone, including those with mental health problems, ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom is eligible for free treatment by a general practitioner.

In addition, NHS Direct (0845 4647), the nurse-led telephone helpline, now provides a country-wide confidential, consistent source of advice on health care, including mental health care, round the clock so people can manage their problems at home or be re-directed to the appropriate place.

We have also taken action to strengthen the mental health support that GPs provide. For example, 1,000 new primary care mental health workers and 500 more community mental health staff ('Gateway' workers) will be appointed by 2004 to help GPs manage care for people with mental health problems of all ages, including those in a crisis.

Further information about these initiatives can be found on the mental health website at

Mid-Essex Hospital Trust (Waiting Times)

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people in the mid-Essex hospital trust area were waiting for in-patient treatment on the latest date for which figures are available. [88347]

Mr. Lammy: There were 9,675 patients waiting for in-patient treatment at mid-Essex Hospital Services national health service trust at the end of October 2002.

National Insurance

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the extra cost will be in a full year to (a) the Mid-Essex Hospital Trust; and (b) employees of the Mid-Essex Hospital Trust of the increase in national insurance contributions from April 2003. [88575]

Mr. Lammy [holding answer 7 January 2003]: It is not possible to estimate the exact cost to Mid Essex Hospital Services National Health Service trust and its employees of the increase in national insurance (NI) contributions from April 2003. It is estimated that the changes to employees' NI contributions will increase pay costs by an average of 0.7 per cent. next year.

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