NHS managers are urging the government to fully fund next year's pay award to nurses and midwives after staffside evidence to the pay review body recommended a 12 per cent increase, costing £1bn. National Association of Health Authorities director Philip Hunt said there was a need to address recruitment issues, but added that the wages bill 'must be met centrally'.

Unions have appealed to arbitration service ACAS to intervene in the two-week-old ambulance workers' dispute. Talks, prompted by NHS chief executive Duncan Nichol, broke down after an hour and a half.

Government proposals for trusts and GP fundholding could increase NHS administration costs to as much as 18 per cent of total health funding, the British Medical Association has claimed. An opinion poll commissioned by the BMA found that three-quarters of the public now oppose the NHS reform proposals.

Welsh health authorities have warned that they are heading for an£11m deficit caused by inflation and underfunding. But the Welsh Office has said no more money is available, and that it cannot guarantee next year's allocations will meet inflation.

Getting the right relationship between the NHS and local authorities would be the key to the success of the government's community care proposals, said health minister David Mellor. 'It would be unforgivable if two parts of the public sector were not able to get together effectively,' he said, while admitting that 'in some areas the interface does not work well'.

Responsibility for healthcare in Scotland should be removed from 'undemocratic' health boards and given to single-tier local authorities under a Scottish health ministry, the Scottish National Party declared at its conference. But its health spokesman, GP John Hulbrook, said healthcare should be removed from the 'hurly burly of politics'.