HC Deb 11 June 1968 vol 766 cc14-6
12. Mr. Dean

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a detailed statement on the National Board for Prices and Incomes' Report No. 60 on the Pay of Nurses and Midwives in the National Health Service.

20. Mr. Tom Boardman

asked the Minister of Health whether he will now make a detailed statement on Report No. 60 of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on the Pay of Nurses and Midwives in the National Health Service.

Mr. K. Robinson

I would refer the hon. Members to my reply on 28th March to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton).—[Vol. 761, c. 335–6.] So far the Whitley Council has reached agreement on a number of recommendations including the four per cent. increase, effective from 1st October, 1967, in salaries and board and lodging charges, the psychiatric and geriatric leads, effective from 1st April, 1968, and the extension of overtime payments in psychiatric hospitals, effective from 1st October, 1968.

Mr. Dean

In that reply, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would be having discussions with the nurses and midwives concerning the recommendations about training and management. Have those discussions yet taken place?

Mr. Robinson

No, Sir, they have not taken place, but they will take place shortly.

Mr. Boardman

But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable feeling of unfairness among student and pupil nurses living in, because, at the end of May, they were required to pay increased charges for board and lodging which they have already had and paid for over the previous eight months?

Mr. Robinson

Board and lodging charges, which are still heavily subsidised, have always been linked with the pay of student and pupil nurses, and it was a clear recommendation of the Prices and Incomes Board that the two increases should be operative simultaneously.

Mr. William Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend undertake to look very carefully at this proposition, especially where there are gross and unfair anomalies in the Board's Report? Is it not the case, for instance, that a three-year trained staff nurse at the maximum will get less than a two-year trained senior enrolled nurse? Is this not a gross reflection on the nursing profession?

Mr. Robinson

These matters will be considered in detail by the Whitley Council and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on them while these negotiations are in progress.

Mr. Moyle

Would my right hon. Friend not think it appropriate at this time to advise the Whitley Council that overtime payments should now be made to all nurses, no matter what sort of hospital they work in?

Mr. Robinson

It is not for me to advise the Whitley Council. The Council is considering the recommendation of the Board which, with the agreement of the Government and the profession, considered the whole matter of nurses' pay.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Surely it is within the Minister's competence to express an opinion about differentials. Can he assure us that he has taken the point of the narrowing of the differential, partly due to overtime, between the highest-paid auxiliaries at the lower end of the scale and the lowest-paid matrons at the top end of the scale? Would he not consider the effect of this on recruitment, on people staying in the profession and on incentives for those seeking higher positions, particularly tutorial positions?

Mr. Robinson

I have had no representations on this matter yet, but I will consider the point which the hon. Gentleman raises.

15. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Health whether any nurses will receive less payment as a result of the review of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on the pay of nurses.

Mr. K. Robinson

The Board's recommendations on pay are still under negotiation in the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council. None of the agreements so far reached could result in a nurse receiving less payment.

Mr. Fisher

Is it not rather strange to find, in a Report stressing the need to attract more part-time staff, that nurses who work only on Sunday or do night duty on fewer than five nights a week will, so far as I can see, actually receive less? If that is so, will the right hon. Gentleman iron out that kind of anomaly?

Mr. Robinson

This point is still under discussion, and, although a considerable extension of the arrangements for special duty payments is recommended—at considerable cost, I may say, to the Exchequer—the present rates would be reduced for many nurses. This matter is being discussed by the Whitley Council, which is seeking further advice from the Prices and Incomes Board.

Mr. Dean

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that no nurses will receive less pay under the new arrangements?

Mr. Robinson

It would be wrong for me to give any assurance at this stage while the matter is not only under discussion at the Whitley Council but has gone back to the Prices and Incomes Board.