The NHS will be expected to provide at least 1,000 jobs and training places for unemployed people as its initial contribution to the government's New Deal scheme, and will be expected to deliver more in future, managers have been told.

The initiative is a key plank of the government's Welfare to Work strategy. It aims to help unemployed people find lasting jobs.

One hundred health authorities and trusts have signed up to the New Deal initiative, health minister Alan Milburn said this week.

He said he was encouraged by the figure but signalled that he expected the NHS to do much better.

Speaking at a conference in London to debate 'the New Deal in healthcare', he said that the NHS, as an employer of nearly 1 million people, had many opportunities to get involved.

But he added: 'I do not look to NHS organisations to participate in the New Deal out of the goodness of their hearts but because it is for the good of the NHS.'

It would benefit the health service directly by allowing it to fill vacancies with suitable candidates, who had been screened before-hand, he said.

But employers are obliged to offer recruits the same terms and conditions of employment as they would offer anyone else, and have a commitment to training them, Mr Milburn said.

And he warned that no other employee should be sacked or made redundant as a result of New Deal recruitment. 'This is absolutely not a revolving door policy, ' he added.

Education and employment minister Andrew Smith told delegates that the New Deal was designed to suit small or large organisations, so was as applicable to a GP surgery as to a large trust.

But other speakers were concerned that some New Deal participants, such as those with a criminal background, might not be suitable for NHS jobs.