HC Deb 12 June 1961 vol 642 cc17-8
25. Mr. Denis Howell

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of growing concern about the lack of recruitment to the nursing profession; and what action he intends taking to safeguard the future of the hospital service.

Miss Pitt

More nurses are employed in the hospital service than ever before. My right hon. Friend supports the recruitment efforts of hospital authorities by giving widespread publicity to nursing as a career.

Mr. Howell

Is the hon. Lady aware that the administrators of many hospitals, who are looking well ahead into the future, are extremely concerned that pro rata to the population, and particularly pro rata to the number of school-leavers, the number of new entrants to the nursing profession is very unsatisfactory and in certain areas—to be specific, in certain hospitals dealing with the chronic and mentally sick—is likely to reach a state of crisis? We have the opportunity with the bulge in the number of school-leavers to do something dramatic. I ask the Minister to examine this problem and consider initiating a nation-wide campaign to get young suitable girls into the nursing profession.

Miss Pitt

There is continuous publicity through the media of the Press, television, radio and all the journals; posters are available; exhibitions are held. I agree that it is important to attract a number of school-leavers into the nursing profession, but there is another aspect. Happily last year the number of part-time nurses rose considerably. We think that a special effort directed towards the trained woman who can come back part-time might also help.

Mr. F. Harris

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a very worrying problem indeed? Last Saturday morning I went over a nursing home in which half the beds could not be used because of the shortage of nurses. This is a serious matter. Will she do everything in her power to alleviate the position?

Miss Pitt

Yes. If my hon. Friend really means that it was a nursing home, it would not come under the National Health Service.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the hon. Lady aware that this kind of publicity will be of little effect if she does not take the initiative in seeing that the nurses are paid adequately? This seems to me, and to many others who are interested, to be the crux of the matter. Will not the Parliamentary Secretary and her Department take the initiative to see that these people get paid adequately for their wonderful work?

Miss Pitt

As I have explained before, this is a matter for the nurses' and midwives' Whitley Council. There was a considerable improvement in 1959, both in pay and conditions, and there was a modest increase in pay last December.