The government has announced that NHS Direct, the nurse-led telephone helpline, will be rolled out to cover 60 per cent of the country by the end of the year. Health secretary Frank Dobson said the scheme was being expanded faster than originally planned because it had

proved popular with the public and staff.

Merger plans for Frenchay Healthcare trust and Southmead Health Services trust to form a new North Bristol trust have been approved. The new trust will be the largest in South West region, with 9,500 staff, 1,500 beds and an annual budget of£220m.

Strike action has been averted at Scotland's top-security hospital following a last-minute increase in a financial offer to staff. Managers at the State Hospital, Carstairs, are now looking for talks with unions on flexible working to help fund the increase from existing resources.

A Scottish trust whose chief executive has been suspended since June over alleged financial irregularities is remaining tight-lipped about the outcome of an independent inquiry, despite parliamentary pressure to publish the

details. A spokesperson for Central Scotland Healthcare trust confirmed that the report and the future of Derek Pollacchi had been discussed at a recent board meeting, but said no statement would be made until 'any action by the trust board has been carried through'.

Prince Charles has opened a multi-faith centre, thought to be the first of its kind in a hospital, at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre. The building contains a chapel, synagogue, mosque, mandir and gurdwara.

North Essex health authority chief executive Nigel Beverley wishes to point out that he is not a candidate for the NHS Information Authority's chief executive post, as suggested recently (news, 28 January).