HC Deb 11 December 1967 vol 756 cc17-9
14. Dr. Winstanley

asked the Minister of Health if the decision of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board to limit current nurse recruitment in order to reduce expenditure is in accordance with Government policy.

Mr. K. Robinson

Regional hospital boards determine their own priorities to contain expenditure within approved estimates.

Dr. Winstanley

Is the Minister aware that the circular recently issued by the Manchester Regional Hospital Board suggests that nurse recruitment is now to be limited to a figure below that which was previously considered to be necessary? Does he not agree that this is the very last field in which economies should be made?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Member will be glad to know that since April, 1964, the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has increased its nursing staff in the region by very nearly a quarter. I understand that the hospitals in greatest need of additional nursing staff will be the least affected by these limitations, and psychiatric hospitals are not affected at all.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Minister have a realistic revision of establishments for nurses in hospitals which often do not give a true indication of the shortages which exist?

Mr. Robinson

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Over a long period we have considered whether it is possible to lay down national standards, as it were, for establishments. The trouble is that hospitals vary so much in their nature and the work which they do that this is proving extremely difficult.

Lord Balniel

Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought not to shunt off his responsibility to the regional hospital board? Does he not recognise that the restriction on hospital nursing staff to 90 per cent. of the optimum establishment is causing serious difficulties in hospitals? Is it not right that the public should be aware that the problem is not a shortage of recruits but a shortage of finance coming from the Treasury?

Mr. Robinson

That is not necessarily the answer in every part of the country. The Board is not seeking to reduce its expenditure but to limit the increase to a level which it can contain within its approved estimates. There is nothing new in that. It happened during the time of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite.