HC Deb 25 March 1957 vol 567 cc797-8
48. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to overcome the shortage of nursing staff for mental hospitals.

Mr. Vosper

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) on 26th November, 1956, Evidence that the action taken is beginning to produce results is provided by the figures for 30th September, 1956, which show an increase in total nursing staff over the first nine months of the year. The most encouraging feature is an increase of 19 per cent. in the number of student nurses.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Minister aware that the same figures show that there is a shortage of 2,900 male nurses at present and that this figure has gone down by only 100 in the last two years? Is he aware that this is a very serious problem and that mental nursing is a particularly exacting occupation which deserves special consideration of pay, conditions and hours of working?

Mr. Vesper

I certainly accept all that, but the fact remains that there has been an astonishing reversal in recruitment and that 926 were added to the staff of mental hospitals alone in the first nine months of last year. At the moment, I believe that that promising trend is continuing.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind the pressure which has been on him to reconsider the constitution of the Whitley Council in this regard as the Federation of Health Service employees has so often wanted?

Mr. Vesper

I have that in mind.

Mr. Dodds

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the amazing testimony in the evidence to the Royal Commission which indicates that, because of the shortage of staff, thousands of certified people are being kept inside mental hospitals to be used as cheap labour at top rates of 6s.? If he denies that, I am prepared to show him the evidence in the Report of the Royal Commission.

Mr. Vosper

It certainly does not arise on this Question, which relates to shortage of staff.