§ Mr. Archie Norman
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many nurse practitioners he estimates are required to ensure compliance in England with the European working time directive; 
(2) how many nurses of an appropriate grade work as nurse practitioners to cover doctors in training in the NHS. 
§ Mr. Hutton
It is not possible to estimate a figure for the number of nurse practitioners required, as ensuring compliance with the working time directive (WTD) requires a range of different approaches in different trusts and services, only some of which will require nurse practitioners to be employed.
The 20 WTD pilot projects currently in progress include seven employing nurse practitioners and five more which have developed senior specialist nurse roles. Examples of these are nurses trained as first assistants in surgery, as perioperative surgical practitioners, as specialist mental health nurses, and as pre-admission nurses. These pilots have shown that nurse practitioners and nurses in specialist roles can be extremely effective at both helping a trust to achieve compliant rotas and improving the quality of patient care. In all of these pilots, however, the nurses' roles are combined with changes to medical staff working patterns, and changes to service delivery, which together improve WTD compliance.
§ Mr. Norman
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the vacancy rate is for the nursing grades that cover nurse practitioners for each strategic health authority in England. 
§ Mr. Hutton
It is not possible to identify nurse practitioners within the vacancy information collected. The rate of vacancies lasting three months or more for all qualified nurses was 2.9 per cent. in March 2003, down from 3.9 per cent. in 2000.