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Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many maternity units there are in England and Wales; how many have fewer than (a) 2,500 and (b) 2,000 births a year; how many with approximately 2,000 births a year are midwife only; and what his policy is on the size of midwife only units. 
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The National Health Service provides care for women in various sizes of midwife only units. It is for local health authorities, trusts and communities to decide on the local pattern of service provision.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the (a) conferences, (b) seminars, (c) workshops, (d) exhibitions and (e) press conferences which have been sponsored by his Department and which took place on non-departmental premises in each of the last four years, giving the title, purpose, date and cost of each. 
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many full-time equivalent inspector posts there are in the establishment scheme for the National Care Standards Commission for each type of establishment and agency covered by regulations laid down under the Care Standards Act 2000; how many will be in post as at 1 April; and when all posts will be filled. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 6 February 2002]: The National Care Standards Commission is funded to employ 1,475 inspectors. The NCSC will allocate case loads following the completion of the staff transfer from local authorities and health authorities.
It is currently anticipated that the Commission will need to recruit around 300 additional inspectors to supplement those who transfer. This recruitment is under way and the profile of the take on will match the phased introduction of services new to regulation after 1 April 2002.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health to what extent direct observation of service delivery will form part of the routine inspection of establishments by the National Care Standards Commission. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 6 February 2002]: The National Care Standards Commission is still finalising its regulatory procedures which will include inspection methodologies. It is anticipated that the Commission will use a range of techniques as part of their routine inspections and these will include direct observation of service delivery.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the underprovision of palliative care; what plans he has to expand the provision, increase expertise and move toward 24 hour care; and if he will make a statement. 
Yvette Cooper: The National Palliative Care Survey (2000) commissioned by the Department, identified inequality of palliative care provision. The NHS Cancer Plan acknowledged this and that the national health service contribution to the costs of specialist palliative care needed to increase. The Plan announced that by 2004 the NHS will invest an additional £50 million in specialist
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palliative care in order to address these inequalities. This will match, on a national basis, the investment by the voluntary sector and will enable the NHS to increase their contribution to the costs hospices incur for agreed levels of service. A supportive and palliative care strategy is being developed under the plan to ensure best treatment and care from when cancer is first suspected through to death and bereavement. Part of this strategy includes a review of out-of-hours palliative care services working with other key organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Relief.
Ms Blears: Over the last two financial years we have allocated £10 million from the Dental Care Development Fund and the Dentistry Action Plan Fund to support local plans to improve access. This money enables health authorities to assist dentists seeking to set up new practices and to expand and modernise existing ones.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the estimated cost is to (a) local authorities and (b) the private sector in Lancashire of bringing residential homes for the elderly up to the standards set by Government. 
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Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his Department's assessment is of the (a) effectiveness of laser eye surgery as an alternative to glasses and (b) risks involved; whether he has plans to introduce such treatment on the national health service; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Blears: Laser surgery is not available under the national health service. Refractive errors can be successfully corrected by spectacles and contact lenses and optical vouchers are available to children and people on low incomes to help with the cost of these appliances. I understand that research shows that surgery is effective in treating selected patients with refractive errors and that research continues into the long-term effects.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his policy towards nutritional supplements in food, with particular reference to EU directives under discussion. 
Yvette Cooper: A common position on a draft European Union directive on food supplements was agreed by the Council of Ministers on 3 December and is currently at second reading stage in the European Parliament.
The Government's view is that in the interests of consumer choice, the law should allow food supplements which are safe and properly labelled to be freely marketed. The proposed directive would establish a framework for harmonised controls on vitamin and mineral content of food supplements and introduce a number of useful labelling measures.
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether targets exist regarding the national rate of suicide; what these targets are; whether they are being met; and if he will make a statement. 
Jacqui Smith: We are looking thoroughly at the many and complex issues of partnership registration, rights and responsibilities. Adoption will, alongside all other relevant issues, be considered as part of that work.
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