HC Deb 29 January 2001 vol 362 cc43-4W

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of whether there are sufficient practising hepatologists to cope with the increasing numbers of patients with hepatitis C. [142247]


At national level, we do not plan centrally the numbers of consultants who specialise in hepatology. We plan the numbers of consultants in gastroenterology, taking into account information gathered from a range of sources, including the medical Royal Colleges, regional postgraduate medical deans and National Health Service management, which includes information about consultants specialising in hepatology.

At local level, it is for National Health Service trusts and health authorities, who are accountable for the quality of the services they provide, to determine how their services are configured and delivered, in the light of local circumstances, in order to provide quality services to patients. This includes deciding on the number and grades of posts in their locality.

We are satisfied that there are enough training opportunities in gastroenterology for there to be sufficient candidates qualifying for consultant posts over the next few years. With the current numbers in higher specialist training, it will be possible for the numbers of consultants to increase from around 390 in 1999, to around 610 by 2004.

We will continue to engage in discussions with the Royal College of Physicians and the regional postgraduate medical deans and others responsible for training and career prospects, with the aim of ensuring that all services relating to hepatology are fully supported.

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