HC Deb 08 July 1966 vol 731 cc921-6

Order for Second Reading read.

3.41 p.m.

Mr. Tom McMillan (Glasgow, Central)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a small Bill. It may seem an unimportant Bill after the long debate that we have had on the previous Measure. Nevertheless this Bill is important. Its importance lies in the fact that it concerns people and their conditions in a profession. The profession of which I am speaking is one that we all admire, the nursing profession.

The Bill is important to a small number of nurses. As the rules stand at present, before a nurse can become a teacher of nursing she has to go through a prescribed form of training in an institution approved by the Nursing Council for that purpose. There is a group of nurses who have teaching and academic qualifications and who, but for the present riles, would be able to obtain a certificate of teaching without attending such an institution. The number of nurses who are affected is small. It is estimated that they are in the region of 30 and that possibly 10 a year can be added to that number.

The main purpose of the Bill is, first, to allow these nurses to become certificated and qualified teachers. Secondly, the Bill has regard to some of the anomalies in the old legislation. We allow Nursing Councils to make rules prescribing qualifications. It is very important that Nursing Councils should know exactly what they are allowed to do. Thirdly, we allow councils and the Secretary of State or the Minister, whoever is appropriate, to grant certificates to nurses as qualified nursing teachers. The reason for the provision, which is of great flexibility, is to allow a new or unusual qualification to be added some time later. The purpose of the machinery in the Bill is to ensure that we can continue getting qualified teachers of nursing without the necessity of altering the rules.

We have also taken the opportunity to allow councils to prescribe qualifications based on experience. This is important because experience is taken into account in Scotland. This was also the case in England and Wales until 1965, when it was dropped. We consider that this was wrong, and that Nursing Councils should be able to take account of experience when selecting teachers of nursing.

Another function of the Bill will be to increase the number of qualified teachers, because qualified teachers of nursing are scarce, and this Bill will enable more to be trained. The Bill is designed in a simple fashion. For simplicity's sake in the drafting, Clause 1 substitutes a new Section 17 for Section 17 of the Nurses Act, 1957. In Clause 2, there is a similar substitution for Section 6(1, f) of the Nurses (Scotland) Act, 1951.

The Bill is not big, but it is important to a group of nurses who are not being recognised as they should be. We should do everything that we can to make sure that things run smoothly in this profession, which the whole country admires, and when anomalies occur we should take the opportunity immediately to see that they are dealt with. That is the reason for presenting the Bill. I hope that the House will support it.

3.47 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

The whole House is very grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Tom McMillan) for his very clear exposition of the Bill. My right hon. and hon. Friends warmly support it, and we imagine that the Government do, also. We should like to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary has to say about the Bill.

3.48 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Charles Loughlin)

Like the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Tom McMillan) for the admirable way in which he has presented what he described as a small Measure, but one that is of major importance.

We feel that it cannot be described as small, although it may be small in the sense of the total number of words used in its drafting. We so often concern ourselves in the House with problems of major national and international importance that we sometimes get rather out of perspective our ideas of what is or is not important.

I know that it is very important to talk about international affairs, but in the context of the Health Service as a whole, which, as my hon. Friend mentoned, deals with people—and the Bill is concerned with the effect on people—the question of nurse training and nurse teaching is of vital importance.

The Government support the Bill in its entirety, but I feel that it is necessary to give the practical reasons why we think that the Measure should be given a Second Reading. Although the training of nurses is statutorily the responsibility of the General Nursing Councils, the training takes place in schools of nursing associated with hospitals, and the syllabus and methods of training require very close co-operation between those who plan the nurses' practical training and those who are responsible for seeing that patients receive good nursing care.

The Health Departments—I use that term deliberately, because here we are involved not only with my own Ministry, but also with the Scottish Department— are concerned to secure in any way that they can that optimum conditions are provided for training nurses.

The whole subject of nurse education has been receiving a great deal of attention, particularly since the publication in 1964 of the report of the Royal College of Nursing on the reform of nurse education. The problems have been widely discussed within the profession, and officials of the Ministry have sought the views of hospital authorities and the appropriate professional bodies. Recently, representatives of the General Nursing Council and of the Ministry discussed problems of nurse training generally. My right hon. Friend hopes to see representatives of the Royal College of Nursing very shortly to express his views on the subject.

One important aspect of the matter is that of securing an adequate number of properly trained tutorial staff. It is generally accepted that more qualified tutors are required. This is particularly true since the syllabus of training introduced experimentally by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales in 1962 has shown every indication of being a greatly improved system of nurse training and will probably be widely adopted.

It does, however, require close integration of theory and practice and, although this is the reason for its success, it makes increasing demands on the tutor. The General Nursing Council is very concerned to see a greater number of qualified nurse tutors and is considering with the Royal College of Nursing and other bodies the possibility of further courses. Last year, an experimental one-year course of training was introduced at a technical teachers' training college, and I understand that a special experimental sandwich course for tutors at the same college will start next year.

Representatives of the Council and of the Ministry propose to meet shortly to consider, in particular, problems associated with the supply of nurse tutors, but, whatever conclusions are reached regarding facilities for the training of tutors, these courses must take some considerable time to organise, and it is here that the Bill will have an important helpful effect, permitting the Nursing Councils to make rules to enable them to utilise, without undue delay, the services of any nurses who wish to undertake the work of nurse tutor and who are, in the Council's view, already well qualified to do so. We welcome it for that reason.

It is well for the House to be clear about the changes which the Bill would make in the major Act of 1957 and the means by which those changes are made. Clause 1 provides that The Council may make rules providing for the giving of certificates by or under the authority of the Council to persons of such classes or descriptions as may be prescribed … It then goes on to lay down three separate categories of person to whom those certificates may be granted.

The difficulty we faced under the Nurses Act, 1957, was presented by the terms of Section 17, which provided that The Council may make rules providing for the giving of certificates by or under the authority of the Council to persons who have undergone the prescribed training (being training carried out in an institution approved by the Council in that behalf) and, if the rules so provide, passed the prescribed examinations in the teaching of nursing. This was the real restriction placed upon the qualifying of nurse teachers because it was linked specifically to those nurse tutors who had been trained in an institution approved by the Council. Clause 1 of the Bill refers to those who have undergone the prescribed training (being training carried out in an institution approved by the Concil in that behalf) and, if the rules so provide, passed the prescribed examinations in the teaching of nursing". That in itself contains precisely the qualification of Section 17 in the 1957 Act.

The provision goes on to give to the General Council of Nursing and the Minister two additional powers. I would make clear that the powers are given to the Council to extend the possibility of acquiring tutors. Paragraph (b) relates to those nursing tutors: who have such other qualifications for the teaching of nursing as may be prescribed and paragraph (c) refers to those who appear to the Council and the Minister, in any particular case, to be qualified for the teaching of nursing otherwise than as mention in paragraph (a) or (b) above. It is a question of accepting the "fully qualified", in particular, of extending the law so that we can accept experience, which has not been allowed to be taken into account in the past, owing to the restrictive nature of Section 17 of the Nurses Act, 1957.

We have had some difficulty in dealing with this situation because we have had nurses who have also had academic teaching qualifications, but because they were not trained in an institution which was accepted as being an institution under the terms of Section 17 they were debarred from the opportunity of being registered as nurse tutors. In practice, we have lost the very valuable use of those people. We feel that we should manage as a result of the Bill to get about 30 teachers immediately and possibly ten additional teachers per year.

I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading without any opposition.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).