HC Deb 09 March 1970 vol 797 cc909-10
31. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many agency nurses are employed in the hospital services at the latest convenient date; and what is the present cost.

Dr. John Dunwoody

2,057 agency nurses and midwives were employed in National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales at 30th September, 1969, and approximately £1,050,000 was paid to nurses' agencies in the year ending 31st March, 1969.

Mr. Lewis

Does that figure include the figure given the other day for the London teaching hospitals, which is 1,000? Is this not a rather wasteful way of employing nurses? Could we not do something to make sure that the terms and conditions for nurses in hospitals are such as will not encourage people to seek better terms and conditions outside through agencies?

Dr. Dunwoody

I confirm that the figures I quoted include the London teaching hospitals. Indeed, this is almost peculiar to London because 90 per cent. of these nurses in England and Wales are employed in the Metropolitan region. Questions of pay and conditions are of paramount importance and I hope that the pay settlement will be applied in the near future. The Briggs Committee which my right hon. Friend announced the other day should go a long way towards meeting those points.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

As the hon. Gentleman said this is very largely a London problem, can he say whether the recent awards will take cognisance of that fact by giving a special London weighting?

Dr. Dunwoody

No, I cannot prejudge what might come out of the final discussions in the Whitley Council. Nor do I accept that there is a very strong argument for London weighting. It is remark- able that some hospitals in the London area do not face any problem whatever and they do not employ agencies.