A £6 million package to support the training and careers of health professionals has been announced by the government.
Meeting the Challenge: A Strategy for the Allied Health Professions sets out how the government aims to meet the targets in its National Health Service Plan, announced last July.
The plan said that by 2004 the NHS would have: 6,500 more therapists and other health professionals; 4,450 more therapists and other key professional staff being trained; and new therapist consultant posts to match the nurse consultant posts.
The number of training places for these professions has already increased by more than 1,000 since 1997. The recruitment and retention of ethnic minorities is seen as crucial to the plan's success.
Allied health professions include staff such as physiotherapists, paramedics, chiropodists and radiographers. The government says the Allied Health Professions Forum must lead the way and show that different health professions can work together.
The £6 million is mostly to cover the cost of new places, which the NHS education and training consortia countrywide are already asking universities to provide.
The strategy calls for the development of inter-professional education and training, wider access and better support of evidence-based practice.
It wants joint training in communication skills as a prerequisite to a qualification and the development of a common foundation programme, such as that developed by Kingston University and St George's Hospital Medical School.
To widen participation, the government wants to see better partnerships between universities and the NHS.