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14 Jan 2003 : Column 531W—continued

Nursing Vacancies

Mr. Lyons: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many nursing vacancies exist in trusts in England and Wales. [90225]

Mr. Hutton: Information on vacancies lasting three months or more for nursing staff in England is shown in the table.

The three month vacancy rate was 3.1 per cent. in March 2002, a fall from 3.4 per cent. in March 2001 and the second successive fall in vacancies for qualified nursing staff.

Information for Wales is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales.

Department of Health Vacancies Survey, March 2002
Vacancies in NHS Trusts, qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff Three month vacancy rates, numbers and staff in post

Qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff (excluding HA staff)England (excluding HA staff)
Three month vacancy rate (percentage)3.1
Three month vacancy number8,394
Staff in post (whole-time equivalent)265,717
Staff in post (headcount)329,981


1. Three month vacancy information is as at 31 March 2002.

2. Three month vacancies are vacancies which trusts are actively trying to fill, which had lasted for three months or more (whole-time equivalents).

3. Three month Vacancy Rates are three month vacancies expressed as a percentage of three month vacancies plus staff in post.

4. Three month Vacancy Rates are calculated using staff in post from the Vacancy Survey, March 2002.

5. Staff in post data is from the Non-Medical Workforce Census, September 2001.

6. Staff in post data excludes staff employed by Health Authorities, as vacancy information was only collected from Trusts, PCTs and Special Health Authorities.

7. Percentages are rounded to one decimal place.

8. Calculating the vacancy rates using the above data may not equal the actual vacancy rates.


Vacancy Numbers and Rates: Department of Health Vacancies Survey March 2002

Non Medical Staff in Post: Department of Health Non-Medical Workforce census September 2001

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Sleep Disorders

Mrs. Mahon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans his Department has to ensure that health purchasers are encouraged to diagnose and treat obstructive sleep apnoea; [88235]

Mr. Hutton : Targets for National Health Service modernisation and reform set out in the NHS Plan will help improve services for everyone using NHS services, including those with sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders.

Substantial new investment in both health and social care services were recently announced in the Budget. The NHS will receive an annual average increase of 7.5 per cent. above inflation over the five years 2003–04 to 2007–08. This represents an increase of #34 billion in funding and is the highest sustained growth in funding in the history of the NHS. This increase will provide the investment needed to support services which best meet patients and users needs.

Information on the configuration of local services such as which primary care trusts (PCTs) provide diagnostic and therapeutic services for obstructive sleep apnoea is not held centrally. However, we are aware that there are specialised sleep disorder services at St Thomas' Hospital, London and at hospitals in Cambridge and Leicester.

PCTs, in partnership with local stakeholders, have the responsibility for deciding what services to provide for their populations including those with sleep apnoea. They are best placed to understand local health needs and commission services to meet them.

Patient Testing

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on near patient testing by NHS trusts. [87534]

Mr. Hutton: The NHS Plan set out the vision for the national health service to offer patients fast and convenient care offered to a consistently high standard. Subsequently, Delivering the NHS Plan confirmed our commitment to substantial increases in NHS capacity and to using the extra investment to modernise the way services are provided to bring them closer to patients, to expand the choices available to them and to make better use of the NHS work force.

The Department recognises the vital role of pathology services in the effective treatment and care of patients, and in providing fast and effective diagnoses to support improved access to services. We support the appropriate use of near patient testing in primary care, community clinics, accident and emergency

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departments and on the wards, which can provide improved service for patients, speeding up diagnoses and treatment.

We are currently revising our draft guidance for the NHS on modernising pathology services, and will include advice on appropriate use of near patient testing in this.

Primary Care Trusts

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he expects to publish the first report on the effectiveness of primary care trusts. [88524]

Mr. Hutton: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) on 7 January 2003, Official Report, column 204W.

GP Recruitment

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what targets have been set for the recruitment of GPs in England. [84496]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 2 December 2002]: The NHS Plan set a target of 2,000 extra general practitioners by 2004. Delivering the NHS Plan, published in April, set out the next stage in this expansion—15,000 more GPs and consultants working in the national health service by 2008.

Recruitment of Nurses

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 25 November regarding ethical foreign nurse recruitment if he will list the names of the agencies that have been reported; what investigations have been undertaken; and what action has been taken against any agency found guilty of breaches. [84771]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 2 December 2002]: This information is held in confidence. In each case behaviour which appeared to be inconsistent with the Code of Practice was reported and the agency was given the opportunity to respond to the allegations. In each case officials have been satisfied that the organisation in question is operating in line with the Code of Practice.

This process will be followed in all cases, but if any allegation is substantiated, the agency will be removed from the list. At this stage, the information will be publicly available.

Spending Review

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list for his Department (a) those Comprehensive Spending Review 1998 targets that were outstanding at the time of the statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review 2002, (b) progress on such targets since then and (c) the expected date when targets not yet achieved will be met. [87696]

Mr. Lammy [holding answer 7 December 2002]: The Department publishes progress against all its outstanding Public Service Agreement targets in its Departmental Report and Autumn Performance Report, copies of which are available in the Library.

14 Jan 2003 : Column 534W


Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what facilities are available to deal with a terrorist attack involving chemical or biological agents, in each region; and which of these facilities were put in place in the last twelve months. [88399]

Mr. Hutton: Since 11 September 2001, National Health Service preparations have been stepped up to ensure we are as prepared as we can be in responding to a range of possible new threats, such as the deliberate release of chemical or biological agents.

In the past 12 months, specific medical countermeasures have been taken. However, information about these medical countermeasures and where they are placed is not made publicly available for security reasons.

Under a #5 million programme, the Department has funded the provision of 360 mobile decontamination units and 7,250 national specification personal protective equipment (PPE) suits which allow the ambulance service and accident and emergency departments to treat people contaminated with chemical, biological, radio-active and nuclear material. Theallocation of this equipment to health and social care regions is shown in the table.

RegionPPE SuitsMobile Decontamination Units
Midlands & Eastern172888


Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he plans to take to increase the ratio of urologists per capita in Great Britain. [89678]

Mr. Hutton: Since 1997, the number of consultant urologists has increased by 27 per cent. to 436 in March 2002. We are increasing the number of consultant urologists through expansion of registrar training places, improved recruitment and retention, international recruitment and promotion of flexible retirement.

In 2001 there were 0.9 urologists per 100,000 population.

As at 30 September 2001 there were 204 doctors in the registrar group for urology in the national health service in England. The output from these existing registrar training places, when combined with other increases and offset by expected retirements in the specialty is expected to result in around 582 trained specialists being available in surgery by 2010. The number of urologists per capita is therefore likely to increase significantly.

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