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Health Trainers

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2006

Nearly half the NHS has signed up to the health trainer scheme. Currently, 228 NHS health trainers are recruited to the programme, of which 206 are now in, or have completed, training. I was delighted to launch the Hull health trainer partnership in March with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Ms Johnson).

I thank the Minister for that answer. Will she join me in congratulating Hull on the pioneering way in which it has looked at the role of the health trainer? It has not just moved health professionals into the role of health trainers, but has recruited people from the local community who can really get alongside those groups that it has been hardest to reach in the past.

I endorse my hon. Friend’s comments. I met Paula Tomlinson, who is a Hull health trainer, in Hull and when she attended an event at No. 10. She said:

“People are starting to recognise us as Health Trainers and are coming forward with lots of things that are affecting their health, not just physical health but also mental health too. People are recognising the support we can give and trusting us.”

I am pleased that there are plans to get customer care assistants working in the scheme, and also community wardens. We are looking to them being part of a wider group of health trainers, in addition to those within the health services.

Will the Minister assure the House that NHS training budgets will not be selectively or excessively targeted in the drive to reduce NHS deficits?

We continue to invest in training—more than ever before. Health trainers are a support for people in communities who need additional help with healthy choices for their lifestyles. I am really pleased that we are going to be on target and to have 1,200 of them in the NHS in the next year or so. That is a credit to those who care as much about prevention as treatment.

Is it not the case that, in the long term, this initiative not only promises to be cost-effective and to save the health service money, but to offer long-term improvements in health care for our population?

I think that it does. There is a substantial amount of evidence that underpins the interventions of NHS health trainers. We have “Health Behaviour Change: A Guide for Practitioners” and various other pieces of work. We have had health psychologists in the Department working with us to ask why those most in need of our support are sometimes deterred from seeing GPs or others. The initiative is about a practical way to tackle the health inequalities that exist in too many of our communities. So far, it seems to be working well, but, of course, we will evaluate the programme as it develops and expands.

Will the Minister tell us the likely impact that the new immigration arrangements will have on the number of medical students being recruited and encouraged to come to the United Kingdom, given that they state that permits will be for only two years?

I am not sure that that question has anything directly to do with health trainers. I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman about what health trainers are about. I understand that extensive consultation is going on with the different organisations that are concerned about the matter.