HC Deb 31 October 1955 vol 545 cc649-51
21. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Health to what extent it is the policy of his Department to leave it to local discretion as to whether the provision of an adequate supply of nurses is best produced by pre-nursing training in schools or by nursing cadet schemes.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

For those who can continue full-time education until the age of 18, this is in my right hon. Friend's view the best preparation for nurse training. Many do not of course do so and for these it is within the discretion of hospital authorities to provide nursing cadet schemes, subject to the conditions of employment being properly controlled.

22. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Health the estimated number of nurses, excluding mental nurses, and of mental nurses required fully to operate all available beds in hospitals of England and Wales.

Mr. Iain Macleod

On the last estimates of the hospital authorities, the numbers are about 10,000 in mental and mental deficiency hospitals and about 21,000 in other hospitals.

Mr. Snow

Has the Minister any figures relating to the short-fall of these figures according to establishments?

Mr. Macleod

I should prefer to have that question placed on the Order Paper.

23. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Health to what extent it is the policy of his Department to encourage voluntary schemes run by hospitals, such as that at York, for pre-nurse training of girls in other employment.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The arrangements of the York and Tadcaster Hospital Management Committee for giving courses of weekly evening lectures to girls who have left school are being watched with interest. It is open to other hospital authorities in consultation with local education authorities to adopt similar schemes if they think fit.

Mr. Snow

Has the Parliamentary Secretary any figures showing the productivity of this experiment at York?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The first two-year course, started in 1953 with thirty-five enrolments, produced at the end fifteen student nurses and seven nursing cadets, a result upon which those concerned are to be congratulated.

Mr. K. Robinson

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give an assurance, in view of those figures, that her Department will not discourage these pre-nursing cadet schemes, as it has done in the past?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I do not accept that we have discouraged pre-nursing cadet schemes, providing that they are run to the standards required—a great deal depends upon the area concerned—and there is co-operation between the education and hospital authorities.

29. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take to improve the shortage of staff in the mental nursing service.

Mr. Iain Macleod

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Iremonger

Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for that information, may I ask whether he is aware of the serious dissatisfaction that exists at the slowness of operation of the existing negotiating machinery? Has he got that in mind, and is he taking steps to secure an improvement?

Mr. Macleod

Matters of pay are, of course, matters for the Whitley Council, in which a Minister does not intervene.

Following is the answer: The problem of nursing staff shortage in mental and mental deficiency hospitals has been closely studied by my advisory bodies and by those of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service and by the professional organisations during recent years, and has been the subject of special inquiries sponsored by Regional Hospital Boards. As a result I have been able to circulate to the hospital authorities much useful advice on ways and means of attracting and retaining recruits to the service. The principal matters to which the hospital authorities have been urged to pay special attention are—
  1. (1) the reduction of the rate of wastage of student nurses by
    1. (a) more careful selection,
    2. (b) the employment in adequate numbers of nursing assistants,
    3. (c) the cultivation of good staff relations at all levels;
  2. (2) the provision of refresher courses for trained nurses and of facilities for participation in courses provided by professional organisations;
  3. (3) the improvement of the quality of the training of student nurses;
  4. (4) the reciprocal secondment of student nurses between general and mental hospitals;
  5. (5) the provision of systematic instruction for nursing assistants.
I am about to open discussions with the professional organisations on matters concerning training and the organisation of nursing work which have been thrown up by recent special investigations, notably by a survey carried out under the auspices of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board. These matters have already been the subject of a conference held by the Royal College of Nursing in which my officers have participated. My right hon. and learned Friend, the Minister of Labour and National Service, through his nursing appointments service is directing special attention to the mental and mental deficiency fields with a view to promoting recruitment. A new step is the staging of an exhibition of the mental health services which will be on view in the Central Hall, Westminster, during the week beginning on Monday, 7th November, and will thereafter be available for use in support of local recruitment campaigns throughout the country.
38. Mr. R. Harris

asked the Minister of Health to what extent experience has shown that the salary rates now payable to nursing auxiliaries has prejudiced the recruitment of trainee nurses working for the state examination.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I have no evidence that the agreement on salary rates for nursing auxiliaries is prejudicing the recruitment of student nurses, and I should not expect it to have that effect.

39. Mr. R. Harris

asked the Minister of Health the number of beds in all hospitals other than mental hospitals, and in mental hospitals, which are closed owing to nursing staff shortage.

Mr. Iain Macleod

At 31st December, 1954, the figures were 14,984 and 2,059, respectively.

Mr. Harris

Does the Minister think that the time has now come to increase the wages of nurses in order to attract more recruits to the profession?

Mr. Macleod

As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, that is not a matter for me.