Care fears allayed. . . General Synod's market concern. . . Cook calls for £200m. . . Unlikely sponsorships. . . Ambulance complaints rise. . .

Proposals for the future of mental health services have been announced by the government in response to Sir Roy Griffiths' report on community care.

They have laid to rest fears of a policy reversal on community care for mentally ill people. But announcing the measures, junior health minister Roger Freeman said he would not approve closures of psychiatric hospitals in future unless 'proper alternative services' were in place.

Shadow health secretary Robin Cook has called for an emergency injection of at least£200m into the NHS to keep pace with rising inflation. He released details of what he claimed were cost-cutting closures around the country, and said inflation now running at 8.5 per cent left the NHS with a£260m shortfall.

The Church of England has called for pilot studies before the NHS introduces an internal market and for slower implementation of the reform timetable.

The General Synod said: 'The changes proposed are likely to affect adversely the access of vulnerable people to adequate healthcare.'

An elderly care ward, sterile supplies department and outpatient department are to be partly funded by private sponsorship deals in Cheltenham and District health authority.

Agreements ranging from a few hundred pounds to£50,000 have been signed with companies as diverse as a finance firm and a local car-dealer.

Complaints about the London ambulance service have escalated. Response rates to emergencies have fallen to 80 per cent reached within 14 minutes, compared with the ORCON recommendation of 95 per cent.

Trade union NUPE blamed staff shortages and unavailability of ambulances. South West Thames regional health authority said ORCON standards, fixed in the 1970s, were now arbitrary, and that it had carried out several recruitment drives since 1986.