2. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of specialist nurses in supporting disabled people. (904938)
Specialist nurses make a valuable contribution to the care of disabled people. They have specialist post-registration qualifications, which are attained through additional training. There are now 3,000 more nurses working in the NHS than in May 2010, ensuring that disabled people continue to receive the highest possible quality care.
It is true that the skills mix and the way in which specialist nurses have changed over the past six years may well account for the variation that the hon. Lady has noticed—I am willing to write to her with the detail—but the total number of nurses has increased, and we are giving better and more varied training to nurses across the board so that they can deal with the specialist problems that are increasingly the core part of their work.
I thank the Minister for his response. Specialist nurses are vital for the care and support that they provide for patients and families, not just for the elderly but for the disabled. What is his Department doing to ensure that funding for specialist nurses is maintained and that we do not end up in the situation that we have in Northern Ireland with Four Seasons, which is responsible for 62 homes in Northern Ireland and 450 across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
Funding for nurses has increased over the past six years. It is because of the sixth largest increase in the NHS budget that we can guarantee that nursing numbers will remain in that strong position for the remainder of this Parliament. That will include specialist nurses. My role is to make sure that as many nurses as possible get additional training so that we have a wider and richer skills mix, specifically so that nurses can develop their careers—something that I am afraid was often made more difficult rather than easier under the previous career structure.