§ Mr. Caton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what plans his Department has to increase the numbers of consultants and doctors qualified to diagnose myasthenia gravis; 
(2) what plans his Department has to increase the number of nurses qualified to care for patients diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. 
§ Mr. Hutton
Information on the number of consultants, doctors and nurses specifically qualified to diagnose and treat myasthenia gravis is not collected centrally.
As at March 2004, there were 427 consultants in neurology. Since September 1997, numbers have increased by 149, or 54 per cent., and we are working towards increasing their numbers further.
We are encouraging more doctors to practise neurology by expanding the number of specialist registrar (SpR) opportunities in the specialty.
In 2003–04, central funding was distributed to support the implementation of 10 additional SpR posts in neurology. All the posts have now been implemented. Trusts also have the opportunity to create up to 20 locally funded SpR training opportunities. Trusts were surveyed in February 2004, when six locally funded opportunities had been implemented, with the remaining 14 planned to have been implemented by August 2004.
In 2001–05, neurology has been allocated a further two centrally funded posts and strategic health authorities have been given freedom to agree as many 1761WS additional SpR training opportunities as are necessary to achieve Working Time Directive compliance, subject to obtaining educational approval.
The number of nurses overall employed in the national health service has increased by 77,500 since 1997 and we are increasing the number of training places for nurses and midwives. Between 1996–97 and 2003–04, the number of students entering training to become a nurse or midwife has increased by 9,300, or 62 per cent.