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Ms Blears [holding answer 25 January 2002]: The three invest to save projects in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Cleveland have been established to test the cost and operational effectiveness of joint ambulance, fire and police control rooms and a range of shared support facilities such as fleet management, information technology and accommodation.
Ms Blears [holding answer 25 January 2002]: The Ambulance Whitley Councils determine the pay for all ambulance staff on national terms and conditions. Negotiations on pay for 200203 will begin shortly.
For the future we remain committed to working closely with unions, professional organisations and employers to introduce a new pay system that will offer staff working in the national health service a more attractive career structure and fairer pay.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has for personal development for ambulance staff; and what monitoring occurs of ambulance trusts to ensure that they deliver these. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 25 January 2002]: Maintaining and extending the skills, potential and careers of national health service staff taking into account service developments and patient need in health and social care is a fundamental part of the NHS Plan and the Framework for Lifelong Learning for the NHS, "Working TogetherLearning Together", copies of which are available in the Library or can be accessed on the DOH website: www.doh.gov.uk/lifelonglearning.
In 200102 £20 million has been invested in the NHS via workforce development confederations to ensure that trusts, including ambulance trusts, have the capacity to deliver training effectively and to support them in meeting personal and professional development needs identified as a result of appraisal.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will investigate the eight minute limit for emergency calls for the ambulance service, with special reference to congestion, road works and other restrictions to journeys. 
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emergency and urgent ambulance calls. Current standards require that calls to people with potentially life- threatening illnesses and conditions should be responded to within eight minutes irrespective of location in 75 per cent. of cases. All other calls should be responded to within 14 minutes in urban areas and 19 minutes in rural areas in 95 per cent. of cases.
Road conditions do have an impact on ambulance response times but clinical evidence suggests that achievement of the 75 per cent. standard could save 1,800 lives each year in people under 75 years of age suffering heart attacks.
In March 2000, we recurrently invested an extra £21 million in the ambulance services to support the delivery of the 75 per cent. Category A eight minute target. This is being invested in more ambulance staff and front line vehicles.
Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many beds there were in residential care homes (a) in May 1997 and (b) on the latest date for which figures are available in (i) England, (ii) Kent and (iii) the Tonbridge and Malling constituency. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 25 January 2002]: The table shows the number of places in residential care homes in England and in the Kent area in 1997 and 2001. Information for Tonbridge and Malling constituency is not collected. Information relates to 31 March each year.
|(i) England||(ii) Kent(44)|
(43) Excludes place in children's homes.
(44) Information is presented for the county of Kent prior to local government re-organisation on 1 April 1998. Figures for 2001 therefore relate to the area corresponding to the unitary authority of Medway Towns and the county area of Kent.
Department of Health Annual Statistical returns
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the timetable is for local authorities to deliver best value in terms of care, with specific reference to the management of day centres. 
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost to the NHS in each of the last five years has been of compensation to patients and their families as result of adverse incidents involving the use of electronic medical equipment; and what contingencies the NHS is making for the next five years. 
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Ms Blears [holding answer 28 January 2002]: Information about clinical negligence claims involving the use of electronic medical equipment is not held centrally. The clinical negligence scheme for trusts is a global fund paid into on an on-going basis. It does not operate as a contingency fund for specific types of claim.
Mr. Hutton [holding answer 28 January 2002]: This information is not held centrally at present. However, when the National Care Standards Commission takes over from health authorities the regulation of private health care services on 1 April this year, it will compile a comprehensive national database about service providers and the facilities they offer.
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans he has to reduce the number of age-related macular degeneration patients eligible for treatment (a) losing sight and (b) registering blind owing to a lack of regional availability of visudyne; 
(3) if he will issue guidance to primary care trusts on treatable age-related macular degeneration to increase referral speed to an ophthalmologist and the shortening of the treatment process; 
(4) what plans he has to include screening for wet age-related macular degeneration as part of the regular sight test for the relevant age groups. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 28 January 2002]: Research trials suggest that photodynamic therapy may be capable of arresting sight loss among certain patients with 'wet' age-related macular degeneration. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is currently undertaking an appraisal of this treatment and will advise if it should be made generally available under the national health service. The NICE Appraisal Committee will meet on 7 March 2002 to produce draft guidance. The Appraisal Committee is to have a second meeting on 15 May and guidance to the NHS is expected in July 2002, providing there are no appeals.
The Department has asked NHS bodies to continue with local arrangements for the managed introduction of new technologies where guidance from NICE is not available at the time the technology first became available. These arrangements should involve an assessment of all relevant factors including the available evidence on effect.
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Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate he has made of the number of patients with age-related macular degeneration eligible for treatment who have (a) lost eye sight and (b) been registered blind since visudyne received regulatory approval; 
(3) what estimates he has made of the number of age-related macular degeneration patients eligible for treatment who have lost the sight of one eye before they visit an ophthalmologist. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 28 January 2002]: We are unable to estimate how many patients may benefit from photodynamic therapy until the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has completed its appraisal of the therapy. NICE's guidance is expected in July 2002.
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients were treated with photodynamic treatment for (a) wet and (b) dry age-related macular degeneration in the (i) NHS and (ii) private sector in the last year for which figures are available. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 28 January 2002]: In 200001 there were 3,317 finished consultant episodes coded "degeneration of macular and posterior pole" in the national health service. Currently it is generally accepted that only 'wet' macular degeneration is susceptible to treatment but we do not hold information on the extent of the use of visudyne in these treatments. The Department does not routinely collect information on operations carried out in the private sector.
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