§ Mr. Peter Atkinson
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the future demand for anaesthetists in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear Strategic Health Authority area following the introduction of the European Working Time Directive; and if he will make a statement on meeting the demand. 
§ Miss Melanie Johnson
The Working Time Directive (WTD) is an integral part of modernising and improving services at all levels. Strategic health authorities (SHAs) are responsible for planning for implementation by national health service trusts of the WTD for doctors in training from August 2004, as part of their overall NHS planning.
It is for local organisations to determine the level of staff needed to implement the WTD and to deliver a quality service. Priority will be given to trusts facing WTD challenges in the allocation of an additional 1,500 locally funded specialist registrar training opportunities, subject to educational approval being obtained.
Figures from the September 2002 Department of Health census show that, in the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear SHA, there were 272 staff with a specialty in anaesthetics. Of these 138 were consultants. As part of the local delivery plans, the local health economy is planning an increase to 176.48 whole time equivalent consultants by 31 March 2006.
In addition to recruiting increased numbers of consultants, the NHS in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear is looking at new and innovative ways to provide services. This includes the implementation of the non-medical anaesthetics practitioner role at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, which involves recruiting non-medical anaesthetic personnel from overseas.