The government has given a clear commitment to improved training. The NHS plan, issued in July last year, says: 'The strength of the NHS lies in its staff, whose skills, expertise and dedication underpin all that it does.

They have the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

'The NHS will continue to support, recognise, reward and invest in individuals and organisations, providing opportunities for individual staff to progress their careers and encouraging education, training and personal development. '

Specific initiatives include:

An additional 1,000 new medical school places. Further year-on-year increases in the number of nurses and midwives trained. Four hundred and fifty more doctors training for general practice by 2004.

More and more accessible return-to-practice courses for nurses and an extension of such courses to other groups of staff (see page 11).

An investment of£140m in personal development and training by 2003-04 'to ensure all professional staff are supported in keeping their skills up to date and to provide access to learning for all NHS staff without a professional qualification'.

Employer support for clinical governance and revalidation. Staff access to either National Vocational Qualifications or an individual training account worth£150 a year (see page 15).

A Leadership Centre For Health, operating through the modernisation agency (see pages 7 and 8).