HC Deb 01 May 1961 vol 639 cc891-2
31. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that his recently announced policy on the future of the mental hospitals has given rise to anxiety on the part of mental nurses, and has had an adverse effect upon recruitment; and what steps he intends to take to restore the confidence of the mental nursing profession in their future career prospects.

Mr. Powell

I have no evidence of any fall in recruitment. As I told the hon. Member on 13th March, there is no reason to anticipate a diminution in the total effort needing to be devoted to mental treatment.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Minister aware that my information is that not only has recruitment fallen off but that mental nurses are beginning to leave the Service because of their fears for the future? Does the Minister not appreciate that his whole policy of modernisation in our mental hospital service, which we on these benches support, will be in jeopardy if this trend continues, and will he take every opportunity of allaying these anxieties?

Mr. Powell

These anxieties are indeed, as the hon. Member says, quite groundless, and I am glad of any opportunities so far as they exist of helping to dispel them.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that whether they be groundless or not, I and others have received a delegation from mental nurses in my constituency who have very real, even if groundless, anxieties on this subject, and does not he feel that something more ought to be done about it, because we want nurses?

Mr. Powell

I am not aware of the approach to the hon. and learned Gentleman. If he cares to pass the representations on to me, I shall endeavour to answer them.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Minister aware that, as my hon. and learned Friend said, many hon. Members have been approached on this matter and that the fears among mental nurses are genuine and widespread? Does not he think that he should supplement his speech on 5th March by stating at some length in a public statement at an early date how he visualises the detailed effects upon the staff of his now policy?

Mr. Powell

I lose no opportunity of illustrating and enlarging upon what I regard as one of the most important developments in the whole of the National Health Service. I am sure that as this becomes more fully understood such fears as exist will be allayed.