I propose to answer Questions Nos. 287 and 294 together.
In the two years to the end of 2001, the number of fully qualified psychologists working in the health service increased by more than 30% or by 91 to 380. Information in respect of the employment position at the end of 2002 is being compiled by my Department and will be available shortly.
Information on vacancies of health service personnel is not collected on a routine basis by my Department. Responsibility for human resource planning, including the monitoring and filling of vacant psychologist posts in each health board region, rests with the chief executive officer of each board. Each chief executive officer, in managing the workforce in his or her region, is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff to be employed in line with service plan priorities, subject to overall employment levels remaining within the approved regional employment ceiling.
My Department, together with the health boards, is currently supporting the implementation of a key recommendation of the report of the joint review group on psychological services in the health services relating to human resource planning through the provision of a substantial number of additional postgraduate training places in clinical psychology. This has resulted in a threefold increase since the end of 1999, from 26 to 83, in the number of student clinical psychologists employed in the health services.
My Department continues to work with health agencies and the education authorities to ensure adequate training places in clinical psychology consistent with the human resource requirements of the health services and the important recommendations on investment in training and education detailed in the Action Plan for People Management published in November 2002, in order to secure the best return on the very significant financial resources currently being invested in supporting postgraduate clinical psychology training.