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Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance he has issued to health authorities regarding continuing care criteria for children and adults with special medical needs who require respite care; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: Guidance on eligibility for continuing health care for children and adults requiring respite care is included in Health Service Guidance (95)8 "NHS Responsibilities for Meeting Continuing Health Care Needs", copies of which are available in the Library. This guidance is currently under review with a view to issuing revised guidance in the new year.
Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will authorise the establishment of the Royal Berkshire Ambulance Service as a pilot site for Category C calls; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Stuart: As part of an overall programme for developing and modernising the health care system, we welcome careful piloting and evaluation of alternative ways of responding to Category C 999 calls that are neither life-threatening nor serious. Pilots must take account of the needs of patients, be agreed by local health communities and be carefully explained to the local public. All pilots must be thoroughly evaluated and best practice identified for dissemination across the ambulance service before a final decision is made.
Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the issue of embryo cell research; and what was the outcome of these discussions. 
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Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the House of Lords will reply to a letter sent to him by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale on 23 November seeking intervention in the case of a 14-year-old constituent suffering from spinal scoliosis. 
Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: United Kingdom and European Union law requires country-of-origin labelling where its omission might mislead and on certain specified foods, and on all foods in cases where its omission might mislead consumers as to the true origin of the food. The Food Standards Agency is pressing the European Commission to propose compulsory origin labelling for a wider range of foods and tighter rules on the use of terms such as "produce of".
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many ambulance hours were lost for each of the last two years for each NHS Ambulance Trust as a result of delays in admitting a patient to an accident and emergency department; 
Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: The information requested is not collected centrally. Each National Health Service ambulance trust works very closely with their hospital accident and emergency departments to ensure that patients receive treatment as quickly as possible according to clinical priority.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made of the impact on attendance times by ambulance trusts as a result of changing numbers of people travelling by road in the last three months. 
Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: The information requested is not available centrally. Ambulance services continue to make progress towards our target of responding to 75 per cent. of life threatening
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calls within eight minutes irrespective of location by 31 March 2001. Achievement of this target across the country could save as many as 1,800 lives a year.
Ms Stuart: National Health Service ambulance trusts have a good track record of managing winter pressures and assessment of NHS ambulance trusts' winter plans demonstrates that they are well prepared for the winter and have effective escalation and contingency plans in place.
We have set national ambulance response time targets for the ambulance service in England. By 31 March 2001, conditions which may be immediately life-threatening should be responded to within eight minutes irrespective of location in 75 per cent. of cases. Four NHS ambulance trusts are already meeting the 75 per cent. target and most NHS ambulance trusts are expected to reach the target early next year. We have invested an extra £21 million in NHS ambulance trusts in England in 2000-01 to help them to continue making progress on their response times. This money has been invested in extra vehicles and extra front line staff. Evidence suggests that in achieving the 75 per cent. target, 1,800 lives each year will be saved in people under 75 years of age suffering acute heart attacks.
Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: As part of an overall programme for developing and modernising the health care system, NHS Direct and National Health Service ambulance trusts are already working together. Co-operation includes co-location of call-taking centres and working together to pilot alternative ways of responding to Category C 999 calls that are neither life-threatening nor serious.
Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: Last year the Department asked the Joint Royal College Ambulance Liaison Committee (JRCALC) to develop pre-hospital national clinical guidelines. JRCALC made the guidelines available to all National Health Service ambulance service trusts in October 2000. A copy of the guidelines is available in the Library.
Ms Stuart [holding answer 13 December 2000]: Advice to the general public on the appropriate use of the 999 emergency telephone number is provided locally by National Health Service ambulance trusts, for example, through visits to schools and presentations at other public events.
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achieve the best eight minute response rate currently achieved by an urban trust and (b) for 55 per cent. of calls to be responded to in eight minutes, using the most recent annual figures available. 
Ms Stuart [holding answer 14 December 2000]: It is not possible to identify the number of additional ambulances and crew required by the London Ambulance Service (LAS) to achieve the best eight minute response rate currently achieved by an urban trust.
The LAS have a plan for the achievement of 55 per cent. of calls to be responded to in eight minutes. In the plan, the number of additional crew required is 125 additional staff on the establishment. The number of additional ambulances needed to meet this response rate is 25. However, meeting this target is not just a matter of more ambulances and crew members; location of ambulances in the area is a factor, as are working practices of the LAS.
Ms Stuart [holding answer 14 December 2000]: There is currently one senior management vacancy within the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). This is the position of Director of Veterinary Services, which is currently filled on an acting basis, pending the recruitment of a permanent successor by open competition.
In addition to this, Johnston McNeill, MHS Chief Executive, will be leaving the MHS on 31 December to take up the position of Chief Executive (Designate) of the new Common Agricultural Policy Paying Agency.
Chris Lawson, Head of the Food Standards Agency's Meat Hygiene Division, will become Acting Chief Executive of the MHS from January 2001, until a permanent successor has been appointed by open competition.
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