HC Deb 27 May 1957 vol 571 cc25-30
34 and 55. Dr. Stross

asked the Minister of Health (1) what is the overall shortage of radiographers in England and Wales in the National Health Service; and what is the total number employed at the present time;

(2) what is the salary scale of a radiographer in the initial grade, and the scale of a superintendent radiographer who is in charge of eight or more assistants.

36. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Health whether he can give an estimate of the number of radiographers under training at the present time; and whether this number will be sufficient to make good the present shortage in the National Health Service.

41 Mr. Jennings

asked the Minister of Health (1) what was the overall shortage of radiographers in England and Wales in the National Health Service in November. 1956, expressed as a percentage of establishment; and what are the comparative figures to the nearest convenient date;

(2) whether he will give an estimate of the annual wastage of radiographers from the National Health Service due to causes other than marriage;

(3) whether he is aware that the present salary scales and conditions, for qualified radiographers in the National Health Service are having a detrimental effect on the future prospects of the radiography branch of the hospitals service; and what proposals he has for improving these scales.

44. Mr. Gibson

asked the Minister of Health what were the numbers of radiographers employed in the National Health Service in 1952; what is the number today; and whether he is satisfied that the hospitals are satisfactorily staffed with radiographers.

46. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health what further steps he is taking to improve the recruitment of radiographers.

50. Mr. M. Stewart

asked the Minister of Health what steps he is taking to remedy the shortage of radiographers in the National Health Service.

51. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Health what is the estimated shortage of radiographers in the hospital services; to what reason he ascribes this shortage; and what special steps are being taken to overcome it.

54. Lieut-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Health to what extent there is a shortage of radiographers; how far this is due to the conditions of service and low remuneration; and whether he will have a full inquiry made on all aspects of their employment and remuneration.

58. Mr. Gower

asked the Minister of Health to what extent the shortage of radiographers is due to inadequacy in their salary scales; and what other circumstances have contributed to the shortage.

Mr. Vosper

The number of radiographers in the hospital service in England and Wales at the end of 1952 was 2,652 whole-time and 199 part-time. The provisional figures at the end of 1956 were 3,087 and 289, respectively. There has been, therefore, a marked increase, but there is evidence to suggest that it has not been enough to meet the increased demand for X-ray services. A sample inquiry in four hospital regions a year ago indicated that there was a shortage of 16 per cent. on establishment, and that not more than half the annual loss was due to reasons other than retirement, marriage, or domestic reasons.

Since then, in November last, the salaries were substantially increased and the staffing structure improved following an award of the Industrial Court. The salary of the basic grade is now£420–£485 per annum, and of the highest grade of superintendent radiographer£–675£850. In my view, it is too early to assess the effect of these increases.

Meanwhile, I have asked hospital boards for information about the staffing of radiography departments and the intake of students in order to obtain a full up-to-date picture of the position. The last return has just been received. When I have been able to study the results of this inquiry I shall consider what steps may be necessary to meet the situation it reveals.

Dr. Stross

Does the Minister agree that the situation at present as revealed by his Answer is completely unsatisfactory? Is he aware that the number of X-ray examinations taking place today is roughly twice as many as compared with those that took place before the National Health Service was instituted? Does he not agree that the present grades of remuneration that he has quoted—for example, the£420 minimum scale—should be£650 if it were evaluated with the minimum grade before the war and brought up to that standard in accordance with the cost of living?

Will the right hon. Gentleman promise to look seriously into this matter and ensure that the long waiting lists, evidence of which is to be found in the hospitals, and the fact that people have to wait weeks before they can be X-rayed, are brought to an end?

Mr. Vosper

The situation is unsatisfactory, but the existence of a gap between demand and supply is not confined to radiography. On the other hand, there has been an increase of no less than 50 per cent. since 1949. As for remuneration, this is not fixed by me but by the Whitley machinery, and in this case was settled by the Industrial Court only six months ago.

Mr. Jennings

While I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the fact that he is investigating an up-to-date assessment of the position, may I ask whether he is not aware that there is a serious wastage of trained personnel in this service, and does he not agree that it is a very serious matter when trained personnel leave this service to take up positions with higher remuneration? Will he take that factor into consideration when assessing the position?

Mr. Vosper

It is true that there is a wastage, and I hope that one of the results of my inquiry may be to determine more closely the reasons for it.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind also the very considerable wastage of all kinds of other professional workers in hospitals, as well as radiographers?

Mr. Vosper

It is true that both the deficiency and the wastage apply to all medical auxiliaries and to many classes of people employed in the hospital service.

Mr. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the position is getting progressively worse, because more and more are leaving to get better paid jobs, which in its turn throws an increased burden on those who remain, so that they leave too?

Mr. Vosper

At the moment, I have no evidence to corroborate what my hon. Friend says, that more and more are leaving; in fact, the numbers in the service are increasing.

Mr. Hastings

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in view of the responsibility involved and the danger of the work in which these people are engaged, with the consequent necessity for very careful training, the salaries they receive are miserable and entirely out of proportion? Can the right hon. Gentleman say when this report which he is proposing to make will be ready, or can he give some estimate? Will he report his conclusions to the House and say whether something more can be done for the radiographers and to increase the number entering the profession and undertaking training?

Mr. Vosper

I do not want to disown responsibility for remuneration, but these salaries were fixed by the Industrial Court only six months ago. It is as yet too early to judge the result of the increase, but most certainly I will inform the House of the result of my inquiry, which should be available in a few weeks' time.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

In view of the increased importance of radiography and the obvious anxiety of those employed in this service, will my right hon. Friend give every possible consideration to this matter?

Mr. Vosper

Yes, Sir. One other factor which the House must bear in mind is that this matter may be affected by the Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Adrian which is investigating radiological hazards. Therefore, the demand in future may not be as great as it is today. But I will certainly do as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests.

Mr. H. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Lewisham doctors have been informed of the shortage of radiology facilities and have been warned that patients cannot be taken or, at any rate, must be restricted? This is a very serious state of affairs which is worrying the doctors. Can the right hon. Gentleman make any statement about that?

Mr. Vosper

I do not think I can add to my original reply. The inquiry will include relative shortages in various parts of the country. My present information is that London is better off generally than elsewhere.

Mr. Gower

Apart from inadequacy of remuneration, can my right hon. Friend say whether any other circumstances have been brought to his attention which may militate against an improvement in the situation?

Mr. Vosper

There are many factors to be taken into account. The age of entry for training, financial assistance for training and various requirements stipulated by the Society of Radiographers are all factors other than remuneration which affect the position.

Mr. Gibson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the very existence of so many Questions from so many different parts of the country is evidence of great concern about this matter? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to indicate whether any immediate steps are to be taken to increase the training of radiographers so that the increased number of training schools can be fully staffed and can provide more well-trained people for this work later on?

Mr. Vosper

The number of Questions on the Order Paper is, I think, mainly evidence of a fairly highly organised campaign. Questions relating to training have been under discussion for some considerable time, and as soon as the result of my inquiry is complete I hope to enter into further discussions about arrangements for training, which are important in this respect.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the urgency of this problem and the fact that the training of these girls takes some time, would the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is wrong for him to say that he will delay taking action at this stage?

Mr. Vosper

I did not say that. There has always been a deficiency of radiographers. I do not believe the gap today is very much wider than it was five years ago. In fact, I set this inquiry on foot some ten weeks ago, and it is now nearly completed.

37. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Health to what extent the present shortage of radiographers in National Health Service hospitals has resulted in overtime working; and if he is satisfied that this will not be deleterious to the health of those concerned.

Mr. Vosper

I regret that the information is not available. Health hazards do not necessarily depend on the number of hours worked, but on the protection arrangements made by hospitals. If evidence is produced that radiographers are suffering excessive exposure, I shall be glad to investigate the matter.

Mr. Hastings

Is the Minister not aware that when people are overworked they are liable to be careless, and that carelessness may react very adversely upon both radiographer and patient? Will he bear that important matter in mind in carrying out the inquiry on which he is at present engaged?

Mr. Vosper

I accept that, but I am quite certain that hospital authorities are conscious of their responsibility in this matter. It may be that my inquiry will enable me to provide further information which I cannot at present give to the hon. Gentleman.