Mr. Hutton: It is the legal responsibility of primary care trusts to ensure that patients have access to high quality out-of-hours services which are delivered to nationally set quality requirements. The four PCTs North Yorkshire will be entering into an agreement with North Yorkshire Emergency Doctors, an established provider of general practitioner home visiting services for out-of-hours services, later this year.
Miss Melanie Johnson: Representations have been received as part of the Choosing Health, Choosing a Better Diet and Choosing Activity consultations. These responses and the Health Select Committee report on obesity will inform the development of the White Paper on improving health, due to be published later this year.
Primary Care Trusts are responsible for commissioning out-of-hours services which are delivered to nationally set quality requirements. Strategic Health Authorities are responsible for performance managing Primary Care Trusts in the delivery of these services.
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Mr. Hutton: The national health service is committed to reducing the length of time that people wait before their treatment starts. By 2008 patients will wait no longer than 18 weeks from general practitioner referral to the start of treatment and this includes access to diagnostics.
Miss Melanie Johnson: The Government's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy was published on 15 March 2004, meeting the Government's commitment to publish and implement the strategy from 2004. The Sensible-drinking message will be revised by spring next year and an audit of demand for provision of alcohol treatment will be completed by 31 January 2005
Dr. Ladyman: Standards for the provision of services for children with life limiting or life threatening illnesses who need palliative care will be issued shortly under the National Service Framework for children and maternity services. Decisions on funding are the responsibility of Primary Care Trusts in line with their assessment of local priorities.
Ms Rosie Winterton: A&E attendance numbers are collected and published quarterly. The latest figures were made available on 27 August. There were a total of 4,502,578 new and follow up attendances at major A&Es, minor injury units and walk-in centres between April and June 2004.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact of the changes introduced by the new general medical services contract on accident and emergency admissions in the out-of-hours period. 
No information has been put forward to date to the Department suggesting the established pattern of when patients arrive at accident and emergency during each day has generally altered following the changes to the general medical services contract. We are, however, monitoring any possible impact of the changes to the contract on A&E closely and will continue to do so.
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Mr. Hutton: Current non-medical workforce figures are not directly comparable with pre-1995 figures. As at September 2003, 19 per cent. of the total NHS workforce were managers and clerical and administrative staff compared with 17 per cent. in 1995. Many administrative and clerical staff work directly to health professionals freeing them up to do their job, such as health care support workers and medical secretaries.
24. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice he has issued to the NHS about public consultations under sections 7 and 11 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 in respect of election periods. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Sections 7 and 11 guidance does not refer specifically to public consultations during election periods. The guidance supporting section 7 makes it clear that the NHS organisation consulting overview and scrutiny committees should agree with them how long the consultation period should last.
Ms Rosie Winterton: Pharmacists already contribute to health improvement, including through stopping smoking services, emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) and needle exchange schemes. We will significantly expand this role through the proposed new contractual framework for community pharmacy, underpinned by a pharmaceutical public health strategy due in 2005.
Mr. Cameron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has received on making magnifying equipment more easily available to people who are registered visually impaired with age related macular degeneration; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: We have received representation from hon. and right hon. Members and the Royal National Institute of the Blind regarding the provision of closed circuit television (CCTV) readers to help visually impaired people with certain tasks.
The provision of CCTVs and other non-optical aids is a decision that lies with social services departments as they are considered to be aids to daily living. Being registered as visually impaired is not a pre-requisite to receiving services. Social services departments are responsible for assessing an individual's needs and for arranging services to meet those needs; this could include the provision of CCTV. However, hand-held,
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stand and spectacle-mounted magnifiers are easier to use, more widely available, more accessible and more cost effective.
Encouragement is being given to hospital and social service departments to work more closely together, and perhaps operate a joint budget to allow more flexibility in funding equipment, and provide a wider range of services and equipment than has hitherto been available. The overall level of funding for aids to vision will, however, rest with primary care trusts and local councils.
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