HC Deb 08 December 1958 vol 597 cc14-5
16. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the practice of relating the salaries of nursing and other staff in mental hospitals to the number of occupied beds may penalise those hospitals pursuing a progressive policy of rehabilitation and discharge of patients; and if he will initiate steps to remove this anomaly.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Arrangements agreed by the Whitley Councils concerned provide some protection for existing staff whose salaries would otherwise be affected when there is a permanent reduction in the number of beds. While some anomalies may remain, it is difficult to find alternative arrangements which do not create further anomalies.

Mr. Robinson

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one ought to try to encourage rather than to discourage mental hospitals to discharge patients? To what extent is there protection for the existing staff, and why cannot that protection be made permanent and complete?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is good that patients should be discharged, subject always, of course, to the clinical facts of the case in question. In regard to safeguards, these are applied to safeguard the position of people already in the hospital employment in these circumstances, but, of course, in future appointments regard must be had to the new salary scales appropriate to the diminished responsibility which they carry.

Dr. Summerskill

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, in the light of the new approach to mental disease, this method of remuneration surely places a premium on lack of initiative?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, I do not think so. It is necessary to have some sort of index by which salary scales can be adjusted, and it is true in regard to future appointments that, if we happily have a smaller number of patients to take care of and fewer beds in hospitals, the task is likely to be less onerous to that extent.