HC Deb 14 July 1958 vol 591 cc809-10
32. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health to what extent it is anticipated that the 44-hour working week for nurses, now being implemented in hospitals, will result in an increase in hospital nursing staffs.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I hope that it will be possible to make considerable progress in the shortening of working hours by reorganising the work of the nurses and midwives without any substantial increases in numbers of staff. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of a memorandum sent to hospital boards and committees on this matter.

Mr. Sorensen

Has the Minister had any evidence whatever of dislocation or difficulty arising out of this very desirable limitation or reduction in working hours?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir. The recommendation of the Nurses and Mid-wives' Whitley Council was conveyed to hospital authorities on 10th June asking that these hours should be reduced in this way as soon as conditions permit, having regard to the availability of staff and subject always to the requirements of the service. I am very hopeful that the reduction will be achieved without any necessity of increased staff, and certainly without detriment to the service.

Mrs. Braddock

While the staffs are very satisfied with the suggested reduction in hours, is the Minister aware that the fact that his circular tells management committees that they will not be permitted any increase in the money that it allowed to them if they recruit additional staff is making the position very difficult for those responsible for administering the hospitals?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not think it should make it difficult because, as many surveys of the nursing services have shown, there is ample scope for re-organisation of the duty rosters and other methods of rationalisation which should shorten hours without the addition of staff or the loss of efficiency.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Would the Minister not agree that there are some cases at least in which an increase in nursing staff is urgently needed?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, but those cases must be looked at in the individual context and not as part of a consequence of a general reduction of hours such as this.