To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many neonatal nurses there are; how many are nearing retirement; and what is being done to tackle staff shortage. 
The Department's workforce census collects data about numbers of paediatric nurses and this includes neonatal nurses and other nurses involved in the care of children. As at 30 September 2001, there were 17,640 paediatric nurses working in the national health service in England, of which 1,924 were aged 50 years or over. Separate information is not collected centrally on the number of neonatal nurses employed in the NHS, nor is information on the number nearing retirement.The Government are committed to increasing the overall nursing workforce, from which neonatal nurses can be drawn, as at March 2002 there were an estimated 28,740 more nurses employed in the NHS than in 1999.The "Review of Neonatal Intensive Care Services", published for consultation on 10 April 2003, offers a blueprint for moving to a modernised service through the formation of clinical networks and addressing recruitment, retention and skills issues.The Department recognises the need to focus on developing the neonatal nursing workforce. We have in place successful initiatives to recruit and retain the nursing workforce and a professional lead has recently been appointed to work on the recruitment and retention strategy for neonatal nurses.