§ Mrs. Fyfe
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list, in relation to the McMillan two year open learning conversion course for second-level registered nurses(a) the level of funding provided, (b) the planned increase in funding and (c) the estimated number who will qualify each year; and if he will issue guidance to trusts on the selection of students for this course and on leave for attending. 
§ Mr. Galbraith
The McMillan two-year open learning course is one of several different courses in Scotland for the conversion of second level to first level nurses. The Scottish Office funds some places on such courses through its contracts with Universities and Colleges for pre-registration nursing and midwifery education. However, education institutions have flexibility to decide, in the light of local demand, how many places to allocate to conversion courses and how many to other courses covered by their contracts. It is also for them to determine the nature of their second to first level conversion courses. Many do so through open learning, and some use the course published by McMillan.
The number of places taken up in 1998–99 and 1999–2000 will depend on the demand for second level conversion courses. During 1996–97, 274 second level nurses in Scotland completed conversion courses. In 1997–98, the number was 310. These figures include nurses funded by their employer or privately as well as those funded by The Scottish Office.
The only criteria required for entry to a second-level conversion course is that the candidate is a second level registered nurse. The nature of open learning is that students do not require leave to attend the course. They do, however, require to undertake a period of clinical experience. Most of this can be done in the area in which the second level nurse normally works.