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Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the need for more consultant rheumatologists. [109237]

The NHS Plan recognises that the National Health Service needs more staff and commits the Government to increasing the size of the NHS workforce. By 2004, the NHS Plan states that there will be 7,500 more consultants and 1,000 more specialist registrars than in 1999. These targets are not specialty specific.

The workforce review team meets annually with specialty representatives to discuss training capacity and particular workforce issues. Based on these meetings and other intelligence, the review team makes recommendations on the required expansion of training opportunities in the specialty.

We are increasing specialist registrars (SpR) numbers. For 2003–04, trusts will have scope to create up to 40 locally funded SpR training opportunities in rheumatology.

Current workforce projections indicate that by September 2004, there will be around 80 additional trained specialists in rheumatology over a September 2000 baseline. As at 31 March 2002, there were 430 consultants in rheumatology.