HC Deb 07 April 1943 vol 388 cc660-3
The Deputy-Chairman

Mr. Burden.

Mr. E. Brown

On a point of Order, Mr. Williams. Would it be convenient, according to the Ruling you gave, to consider at the same time as the Amendment which the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) is about to move, his Amendment to Schedule 1, page 11, line 24, to leave out "appointed by the Council," and to insert two nominated by the County Council's Association, two nominated by the Association of Municipal Corporations and two by the General Nursing Council"?

The Deputy-Chairman

That can be done if the hon. Member agrees.

Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 6, to leave out "of the Council."

I will discuss together this Amendment and the Amendment to Schedule 1 in my name to which the Minister referred. I do not propose to go over again the arguments that I submitted in the Second Reading Debate. The purpose of these Amendments is to limit the responsibility of the General Nursing Council in prescribing the training, its duration, the institutions at which it may be given, and the conduct of the examinations. Frankly, I am afraid that if these matters are left entirely in the hands of the General Nursing Council, that body may adopt the somewhat restrictive methods which now operate. There is at the present time an acute shortage of nurses, both State registered and assistant, but notwithstanding, many hospitals with training schools have very long waiting lists and many months have to elapse before an applicant for training is admitted. In addition, many of the training schools have very high entrance fees. I am very apprehensive that the General Nursing Council may apply these some- what restrictive methods to assistant nurses. This problem by and large is a problem of the public hospitals, and I submit it is very necessary to bring on to the Committee the experience of those associated with the work of these hospitals. I submit to the Minister that he now has a very real opportunity of applying the principles of Whitleyism in regard to this Committee. I urge the Minister to make a new approach to the problem and to give to the representatives from the employing side—the County Councils' Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations—together with the representatives of the General Nursing Council and of the assistant nurses, an opportunity to get down to these many problems in a spirit of good will and cooperation. I am sure that if the difficulties that at present obtain are approached in this way it will help considerably in solving those problems which this Bill is a very real attempt to meet.

Mr. E. Brown

I am grateful to the hon. Member for not going over the ground he so fully and admirably covered in making clear his point of view in the Second Reading Debate. I had read his Amendments against the background of that speech. The hon. Member will understand that I do not share his views about the General Nursing Council, and I do not think the Committee as a whole shares them. It is, of course, a fundamental part of the Bill that the General Nursing Council shall be responsible for keeping the roll as well as the register under the principal Act. It would be impossible for me to set up an Assistant Nurses Committee under this Bill on which the General Nursing Council had not its own adequate representation. However, I would like the hon. Member and the Committee to note two things. The first is that one of the members appointed by the General Nursing Council must be a person other than a registered nurse. If the hon. Member holds the view that the wrong people are on the General Nursing Council, that is not a matter either for him or me, except in so far as he may desire to influence the great body of nurses who by postal ballot elect the Council. The second thing is that, since there are yet no assistant nurses, I have to appoint representatives for them on the Committee. I shall have full regard to the knowledge and experience of bodies outside the General Nursing Council, in making the appointments. Perhaps with that assurance the hon. Member will not feel it necessary to press his Amendment, although I know he feels strongly about the matter.

Mr. Burden

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Ammon

I intervene only to ask for an assurance from the Minister, because I gather there is some dubiety in some quarters concerning the interpretation of the term "assistant nurse" and also the composition of the Committee. For instance, I have received from Bangor, County Down, the following telegram: Hope you will obtain Government assurance that the definition of assistant nurse will be as Rushcliffe Report. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the majority of assistant nurses are in the employment of public authorities. There is a little fear in some quarters that the Committee to be appointed may be overweighted with people from the voluntary hospitals who will rather want voluntary hospital training. I would like to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that there will be no bias in that direction, and, although I do not feel much doubt about this myself, that the fears of the person who sent the telegram I have read are groundless.

Miss Horsbrugh

I think I can give that assurance to the correspondent of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). It is clearly laid down in the Bill that the training will have to be approved by the General Nursing Council, and although the hon. Member's correspondent fears that the people from the voluntary hospitals might have too much say in what the training should be and where it should take place, I think she will be reassured by a study of the Report of the Nurses Reconstruction Committee, from which she will see it is very clearly understood by them what type of training will be required for assistant nurses, the majority of whom, it is realised, are working in municipal hospitals.

Mr. Gledhill (Halifax)

We are told in the Explanatory Memorandum that the assistant nurses will be represented on the Committee and that matters mainly concerning assistant nurses are to be referred to it. Is there provision for the complaints and grievances of nurses, either individually or collectively, to go to the Committee? As hon. Members know, nurses work under very strict discipline and this produces a number of complaints and grievances which do not always get to the ears of the competent authorities. Would it not be possible to provide under this Clause for nurses, individually or collectively, to send forward their grievances and complaints and have them investigated?

Mr. E. Brown

I am glad the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) has raised that point. Complaints are now made to the Registrar of the General Nursing Council, and the same thing would apply here. All things wholly or mainly affecting assistant nurses must first go to the Assistant Nurses Committee.

Mr. Gledhill

May I point out that I was asking whether they could go direct to the Committee and not necessarily to the hospital authorities and the General Nursing Council?

Mr. Brown

I did not understand that the hon. Member was referring to complaints about the working of the hospitals. I was referring to complaints affecting the duties and responsibilities of the General Nursing Council and the machinery devised for carrying out that work.

Mr. Messer

Is not this the position? There will be set up a constitution for the Nurses Committee and according to that constitution there will be referred to the Committee such things as the General Nursing Council decide are questions that can be dealt with by the Committee. They will have certain responsibilities and certain authority and will be able to deal with certain aspects of the work, because the General Nursing Council itself will decide that.

Mr. Brown

In addition, all things wholly or mainly affecting assistant nurses must go to that body.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.