§ 39. Mr. Hargreaves
asked the Minister of Health the number of district nurses who have developed a sensitivity to penicillin and cannot undertake further nursing duties; and what special precautions are available to protect nurses exposed to this risk.
§ 40. Mr. Awbery
asked the Minister of Health how many nurses have been reported as becoming allergic to penicillin; how many had to abandon their nursing career as a consequence; and what is being done to assist nurses who find themselves in such a position after undergoing several years of training.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
The total number of district nurses affected is not known, but a special inquiry has shown that in 70 local health authority areas 73 nurses had become sensitive to penicillin, and had to give up nursing for varying periods. There is evidence that the incidence can be reduced by strict observance of technical precautions, and I have at once obtained advice on this from my Standing Medical Advisory Committee. I am circulating this advice urgently to local health authorities and others concerned.
Nurses who have to give up work by reason of sensitivity to antibiotics are entitled to the normal sick leave allowances and may, in appropriate cases, qualify for incapacity benefit under the National Health Service (Superannuation) Regulations. They may also, when the circumstances warrant it, qualify for industrial injuries benefit. The numbers, if any, who may have to give up nursing permanently are not yet known.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
Would the Minister consider approaching the employing authorities in these cases, so that they may gain the requisite information from their nursing superintendents? Would he compare the means whereby penicillin is administered in hospitals where the incidence of this sensitivity is less, and possibly learn of a method by which this risk can be reduced for nurses who have to undertake the administering of a great deal of penicillin?
§ Mr. Macleod
I will look carefully into what the hon. Gentleman says. I know there is a great deal of truth in it. Perhaps I might send him a copy of the advice I have been given by the Medical Advisory Committee, which covers many of the points he raises.