I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 74 together.
There are currently 29 places available annually in vocational training schemes for general practice. Each scheme involves training over a three year period, two years of which are spent in appropriate hospital posts and the third year in a training practice. The cost of salaries and overheads, other than in respect of hospital posts which would arise in any event, are met by the relevant health board. Each scheme is managed by a training committee representative of the various interests involved, while the Irish College of General Practitioners supervises the academic content of training. Information is not available as to the net number of applicants for places on training schemes.
I have had discussions with the Irish College of General Practitioners on the question of expanding the provision of training places. While the college argue that a provision of 70 places annually is desirable, it is accepted that increases in provision must be phased and that a number of important issues about the future, structure and organisation of vocational training need to be resolved. For that reason, I have arranged to convene a special workshop within the next month involving all of the interests involved to examine the issues raised by the question of expansion of the number of available places. I am sure that this will provide an opportunity for all of the relevant issues to be explored and I hope to be in a position to make decisions about the future of vocational training when I have had a chance to consider the outcome of that workshop.