Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance her Department gives to NHS trusts on the use of locum staff to fill temporarily vacant consultant posts; and what limits there are on the duration of such arrangements. 
Mr. Byrne: The Good Practice Guidance on the NHS (Appointment of Consultants) Regulations" includes reference to locum appointments, emphasising the existing limits on the employment of locum consultants and affirming the role of the Royal Colleges in advising extensions of employment. The initial appointment should be for a period not exceeding six months and any extension for a maximum of six months subject to a satisfactory review by the trust and to consultation with the relevant college.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what her Department forecast year-end deficit for the NHS as a whole for the financial year 200405 is, as described on page 41 of the National Audit Office report Financial Management in the NHS. 
Mr. Byrne: In the last four years, up to and including 200304, the national health service has achieved overall financial balance. We are currently anticipating a deficit of around £140 million in 200405, across around 600 NHS organisations. This represents only around 0.2 per cent, of available resources.
The anticipated financial position is based upon provisional figures. Audited information in respect of the 200405 financial position of all strategic health authorities, primary care trusts and NHS trusts will be published in their individual annual accounts and will be available centrally in autumn 2005.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she expects the call capacity of NHS Direct to reach 16 million calls per year by 2006, as set out in the Department's strategy document Developing NHS Direct, published in April 2003. 
Mr. Byrne: The strategy document, Developing NHS Direct", predicted that NHS Direct could be in the position to handle 16 million calls by December 2006. This was based on the assumption that NHS Direct might handle 100 per cent. of general practitioner out-of-hours calls by that stage. Primary care trusts now have the choice as to whether they commission NHS Direct to handle GP out-of-hours services or use local providers. On this basis, it is currently forecast that NHS Direct will be handling fewer calls in 2006.
The overall number of staff has been collected by the NHS Direct special health authority since April 2004. This shows that the latest establishment for NHS Direct in 200506 is 2,961 FTE, which equates to a total headcount of 4,052. The breakdown of these staff, based on the total headcount is shown in the table.
|Type of staff
|Health information advisors
|Administrative and clerical
Jonathan Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether NHS Logistics has been invited to submit a bid to continue to supply consumables to the NHS and to expand the market; and whether NHS Logistics submitted such a bid. 
Mr. Mike Hall: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which (a) NHS trusts and (b) primary care trusts were consulted about the market testing of NHS Logistics; and if she will publish the responses. 
Jane Kennedy: The Department recognises how important it is to consult with the people who use the national health service supply chain; the trusts. They have been and continue to be consulted about the market testing.
The customer reference group allows the commercial directorate to give updates on the process, and allows procurement leads to ask questions. The nature of the debate is by necessity very general. However, members were solicited for their views on the current service and these findings have helped to inform the market testing process.
It was decided that a smaller group had to be established which could be party to more commercially sensitive information. This group, the supply chain and procurement panel (SCPP), first met in April 2005. Membership was drawn from major supply confederations and the new collaborative procurement hubs. All of these organisations are also part of the customer reference group.
Consultation with the SCPP is commercial in confidence. As such, feedback cannot be published. However, we are able to publish any minutes from consultation meetings with the customer reference group. This includes a summary of views expressed during the one-on-one interviews about the current supply chain services.
Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions she had with the management of NHS Logistics on the market-testing of the NHS Logistics Authority; whether the management of NHS Logistics would be able to bid for the contract; and if she will make a statement. 
Jane Kennedy [holding answer 19 July 2005]: The management of NHS Logistics has been closely involved throughout the market testing of the potential outsourcing of the national health service consumables supply chain, currently managed by NHS Logistics and the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency.