HC Deb 17 November 1958 vol 595 cc837-8
46 and 47. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he will reconsider the terms of his recent circular to hospital authorities in which their attention is drawn to the desirability of introducing shorter working hours for nurses while denying any financial provision that might be required;

(2) what progress has been made in implementing shorter working hours for nurses in hospitals.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

I have called for progress reports at the end of this month and will consider the position in the light of the results achieved.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Do I understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reply that he is prepared to change his view about financing these schemes? Is he prepared to reconsider his attitude, in view of the other expenditure which the Government are now incurring?

Mr. Walker-Smith

That does not arise at this stage. What I want to do is to see whether we can get a reduction of hours following on an increase of efficiency due to rationalisation rather than to a further expenditure of money.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Can I take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is prepared sympathetically to consider the problems of some hospitals which, for financial reasons, cannot reduce hours without increasing staff?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The need for increases in staff and the extent to which that can be achieved within the funds available will be a matter to be considered in the light of that and all other circumstances.

Mrs. Braddock

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the difficulty about putting a 44-hour week into operation is largely that in the older hospitals the staffs are under establishment because of the difficulty of recruiting nurses, due to the hard work and the number of steps which have to be climbed in those hospitals? Is he not aware that management committees have been informed that they cannot reduce hours by increasing staff, and that without financial assistance for that the situation is being made even more difficult?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I take the hon. Lady's point, but she will appreciate that I shall be able to test its extent and validity when I compare reports from different types of hospitals.