HC Deb 27 February 1956 vol 549 cc826-7
38. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the nurses at Brockall Mental Hospital, near Blackburn, have decided to ban overtime in protest at the delay in improving their wages and conditions; and what steps he proposes to take to see that their grievances are met.

Mr. Turton

Yes, Sir. Questions of pay and conditions of service are matters for the Whitley Council. I am studying in consultation with the interests concerned the recommendations of the Guillebaud Committee regarding Whitley Council machinery.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his Answer does not meet the urgency of the situation which has now developed in Lancashire, that all the mental deficiency hospital staffs in that area have now applied this ban, that the ban at Brockall comes into operation today, and that there is a long waiting list for patients for admission to these hospitals in Lancashire? Can he not hold out some hope that he will himself take the initiative in getting the Whitley machinery overhauled, because it does not meet the grievances of these nurses?

Mr. Turton

There are two matters here. First, the question of nurses pay. There is at the present time a claim before the Whitley Council, which will be considered at its meeting on 20th March. As to the question about machinery, that is a recommendation of the Guillebaud Committee. I must, before I make any decision on that recommendation, consult the interests concerned. That consultation, as I said in answer to a previous Question, is at present proceeding.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the serious unrest among nurses in these mental hospitals, and as this matter has been brought before the Minister week after week, can he say whether he has tried to expedite a meeting of the Whitley Council in order that a decision may be made forthwith?

Mr. Turton

I am sure that the right hon. Lady realises that I must not intervene in Whitley Council proceedings. The nurses' general salary claim was lodged on 30th January; the Whitley Council met, and decided to consider the claim on 20th March. I must leave it at that.