HC Deb 09 February 1945 vol 407 cc2394-7

Order for Second Reading read.

11.55 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The purpose of this Bill is to correct a drafting error in Part II of the Nurses Act, 1943, and Part II of the Nurses (Scotland) Act, 1943. Part II of each of these Acts, as hon. Member's are aware, deals with the conduct of agencies for the supply of nurses to the sick, generally known as nurses co-operations. Certain regulations are set out in those Acts but it was never intended that what were known as district nursing associations—those associations under county and district nursing associations and similar organisations—should be included under Part II of the Acts. Hon. Members know that these county and district nursing associations have a definite organisation, to whose funds the local authorities are empowered to contribute. They have their rules and regulations, they keep uniform record cards and case books. They have done work which every one of us knows is the admiration of the people of this country.

I think it may well be said of these district nurses that they are real friends of the people of this country. They are welcomed into their homes, as they go from one to another, We all know that neither bombs, nor storms, nor rain, nor floods, nor anything else will keep the district nurse from reaching the home of her patient. We know their organisation well, and it was not our intention that they should be brought under this new form of regulation. The nurses co-operations are employment agencies. They take from the nurse, in the majority of cases, a payment for finding her employment, and arrangements are made for the patient also to pay. The regulations set out in Section 7 of the Nurses Act, 1943, make it clear that those organisations can employ not only the State-registered nurse, but assistant nurses, whereas in the county and district nursing associations there are in general only State-registered nurses or State-certified midwives.

I have pointed out these matters to the House so that hon. Members will be able to see that the organisation of what we call the district nurses is different from that of the nurses co-operations. My right hon. Friend, in moving the Second Reading of the Nurses Bill, 1943, pointed out that we were well aware that there were good nurses co-operations, and some that were not so good, and I am sure that those who have run their co-operations well are glad that there should be some definite regulation, so that some of the things which have not been as we should like in the past may not occur again. Hon. Members will see that because Clause 2 refers to Scotland, there is an extra paragraph (b). The reason for that is that in Scotland, particularly in the Highland and Islands, the district nurse may go and stay in the patient's home, whereas, in the majority of cases elsewhere, the nurse goes from home to home, and is not resident. Those of us who know those parts of Scotland will realise that there are cases where the nurse must take up residence in the house, which may be a considerable distance from where she has come, instead of calling to look after the patient as is the normal case.

I think I am right in believing that the House will be glad that this small Bill has been brought forward, and that I have been able—I am sure in the names of all hon. Members—to pay a tribute to the work of the district nurses, and to assure those associations that we want their work to go on and do not want a regulation which is necessary for other forms of nursing agencies to apply to the district nursing associations.

12 noon.

Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)

Again, I have great pleasure in thanking the Minister for promoting this Bill, and in commending it to the good will of everyone in the House. I happen to be a person who has had, I think, nearly all the illnesses that flesh is heir to, in addition to accidents, and from time to time my sufferings and troubles have been relieved by the presence of a lady from the district nursing association. Therefore, I can endorse fully the eulogy by the right hon. Lady of those who are wonderful helpers to all of us in times of sickness and suffering. The Labour Party is very glad that the district nursing associations are no longer ranking with the ordinary employment agencies who are fee-charging bodies. This we did not like at all. Therefore I am glad that this Bill has been framed to put that matter right.

12.1 p.m.

Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)

I also welcome this Bill. I do not know why we all overlooked the district nurses and I would take this opportunity to say how much we all appreciate the valuable work which those nurses do, especially in the poor areas, and in scattered areas like the Highlands of Scotland. I am quite sure we are all in favour of this Bill, and I rise only to add my quota of appreciation of the valuable work of the district nursing associations.

12.2 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I would not have spoken had the right hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary not taken advantage of the Second Reading of this Bill to pay a very well-deserved tribute to the work done by the nursing associations. Had she merely pointed out that she was correcting a drafting error in the 1943 Act, I do not think the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) or myself would have been drawn to our feet. Nevertheless, as she did, and rightly, take this opportunity of paying such a tribute I would like, as representing a rural constituency, to be associated with it. The Second Reading of this Bill is not the occasion, I am sure, on which to indicate that with cars and a little more petrol the nurses would be a lot happier, and I should be very much out of Order if I made that suggestion. However, we all realise how these gallant women go about long country roads in all kinds of difficulties and in all kinds of weather—we have had a sample of it lately—and we are very pleased indeed that they and their associations should be singled out for appreciation by this very useful little Bill.

Sir Adam Maitland (Faversham)

The right hon. Lady has said that the further provision which has been made for Scotland is not necessary for this country. I rather imagine, however, that there are certain rural parts of England where the nurses, in fact, stay in the home of the patient, and I would ask my right hon. Friend, as we are amending the Act, whether it is not equally necessary to extend this to England.

12.4 p.m.

Miss Horsbrugh

We do know of cases where a nurse may, perhaps, stay over-night in the home of the patient in England, but I am informed that the words "taking up residence" really cover a case where the nurse goes to stay with her patient throughout an illness. This happens particularly in the Highlands and Islands where she may have to stay for some considerable time. In England, however, where it might be a case of staying one or two nights, I am sure that would not be taken to mean "taking up residence"; in any case the position is probably safeguarded by the use of the word "mainly" in Clause 1.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.—[Mr. Drewe.]

Committee upon Wednesday next.