HC Deb 24 November 1958 vol 596 cc24-6
29. Mr. Royle

asked the Minister of Health if he will take steps to pay State registered nurses their full salaries whilst they are engaged in training as midwives.

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir. This is a matter, in the first place, for the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council.

Mr. Royle

Is there not a real anomaly here? Is not the position that State registered nurses who are taking training in the tuberculosis, ophthalmic and orthopaedic service and in relation to neurosurgery and plastic surgery are actually paid the full salaries of staff nurses during that training? What is the difference? Is the Minister aware that if he took steps to inquire from nurses engaged in this training they would very quickly tell him the reason.

Mr. Walker-Smith

If it is an anomaly, it is pretty well rooted in the past, because this differentiation was established in 1943 and was confirmed by the Whitley Council in 1949 in its reorganisation of the salary structure. However, this matter is to be discussed by both sides of the Whitley Council tomorrow, and we will see what comes out of that.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the Minister consider this point? In various parts of the country there is a great shortage of midwives. Paradoxically enough, these midwives, whom we particularly want, very often find it difficult to undertake the necessary training because they are not treated in the same way as other nurses. This is an anomaly that bears hardly upon mothers. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will use his good offices tomorrow.

Mr. Walker-Smith

It would, of course, appear that that is so. However anomalous the position may or may not be about their remuneration, the numbers coming forward for training are sufficient to meet the full needs of the midwifery profession. The crucial problem is that they do not go on in sufficient numbers to practise midwifery when they are trained. That is a rather different question.

32. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health what representations he has received, in connection with the shorter working week for nurses, about the requirement that the first four hours of overtime each week for mental nurses shall be unpaid.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I have received representations that the rule providing for additional payment to mental nurses for excess hours worked should be amended. This is a separate question from the efforts now being made, in accordance with the Whitley Council's recommendation which I accepted, to secure a reduction in working hours in all hospitals by reorganisation of the nursing services.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Minister aware that, in effect, this rule means that the mental nurses notice no difference whatever from the introduction of a shorter working week? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least give an assurance that he will not instruct his representatives on the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council to oppose any rectification of the situation when the matter arises?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The last part of that question is hypothetical. It is a little early yet to say what will be the effect of the recommendation of May last until I have received the reports of how the arrangement is working out in the actual experience of hospital management committees.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is the Minister aware of the serious position in which we find ourselves concerning the recruitment of mental nurses? Will he try to secure, at least, that there is no feeling of frustration amongst those coming in and those who train in mental nursing?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, I am aware of the importance of the problems of recruitment. I am certainly anxious to do all that is possible not to have any feelings of frustration amongst these people who are doing this important work.