HC Deb 12 March 1956 vol 550 cc6-8
16. Dr. Broughton

asked the Minister of Health how many student nurses commenced training for admission to the register of nurses; and how many discontinued training during 12 months up to the latest convenient date.

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

19,323 and 9,368 in the year 1955.

Dr. Broughton

Does the Minister agree that while there are a number of causes responsible for student nurses discontinuing their training, one factor may be that there is something wrong with the course of training? Could it not be that the curriculum is over-loaded with academic detail?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The hon. Member has raised a very wide question. I should be very loath to suggest a lowering of the standard of the curriculum for nurses. The General Nursing Council is closely concerned with this topic and with standards in the profession. There are many reasons for student nurses leaving. A certain number leave because they are not educationally up to the standard to take the examination, but there are other causes, one of the most important being matrimony.

17. Dr. Broughton

asked the Minister of Health how many pupil assistant nurses commenced training for admission to the roll of assistant nurses; and how many discontinued training during 12 months up to the latest convenient date.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

2,598 and 1,087 in the year 1955.

Dr. Broughton

Do not these figures suggest that the category of assistant nurse is one with a very limited appeal? Will the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend look again at the 1947 Report of the Working Party on the Recruitment and Training of Nurses and consider its recommendations in that respect?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

We have to give the training of assistant nurses a fair trial, because to have this second grade of nursing, into which we hope to encourage women who might have failed in the grade of State registered nurse, but who have educational qualifications and who could find a satisfactory career in nursing in other grades, is a comparatively new development. It has, in fact, been having more success in the last year or two.

18. Dr. Broughton

asked the Minister of Health what is the establishment for trained nurses in hospitals under his control; and to what extent the establishment is filled.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

My right hon. Friend is at present obtaining from the hospital authorities details of their nursing establishments, but has not yet received all the figures; the actual number of trained nurses at 30th September, 1955, was 61,496, including 10,835 part-timers.

Dr. Broughton

Is the Minister aware that, owing to the shortage of nurses, beds in many hospitals are being closed and that a critical situation has arisen? Will the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend look at this serious and difficult problem themselves, instead of entirely leaving it to the Whitley Council and the General Nursing Council? Does not the hon. Lady consider that the time has now come for the Minister to set up a Committee thoroughly to inquire into this difficult problem and this rapidly worsening situation?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I cannot accept all the statements made by the hon. Member. Hitherto the sizes of establishments in teaching hospitals have been controlled by the Department and, in hospitals administered by management committees, by the regional boards. Last July my right hon. Friend asked for a special review of nursing staffs and figures are coming in, although some boards have asked for additional time, and that is why we do not have complete figures. I cannot accept the view that the position is progressively worsening, because at a time when there are substantially fewer women available in the age group from which we normally enroll nurses—the 18 to 19 age group—we have in fact at present 30,000 more nurses than at the time of the inception of the Service. I very much deplore perpetual "Woe, woe" cries about the Service.

Dr. Broughton

As the Minister does not appear to appreciate the gravity of the situation, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

27. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the shortage of nurses in parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire seriously affecting the hospital service, whether he will meet representatives of the hospitals so affected with a view to finding a solution to improve recruitment of nurses.

Mr. Turton

Certainly, Sir.