Health minister John Denham has announced that the NHS has now managed to employ 348 people under the New Deal initiative.

Managers were told by incoming health secretary Alan Milburn in October to improve recruitment through the initiative to meet a government pledge that the NHS would find 1,000 jobs under the scheme. At the time, just 126 New Deal candidates had been taken on.

Mr Denham claimed last week that the NHS is now 'on the right track' to meet the pledge by June. Most of the jobs are clerical assistants, porters and healthcare assistants.