HC Deb 11 July 1972 vol 840 cc1387-9
14. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Social Service what steps are now being taken to provide insurance coverage to National Health Service nurses whilst on duty in ambulances.

Mr. Alison

Proposals for a new code of injury allowances for payment to or in respect of nurses and others employed in the National Health Service who are permanently incapacitated or who die as a result of accidents on duty are under consideration by the Joint Superannuation Consultative Committee.

Mr. Price

What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about the case of which I sent him full details involving my constituent, Mrs. Enid Wells, who is a staff nurse at St. Cross Hospital? She went on a mission to another hospital with a six-year-old boy, the ambulance overturned in a road accident and she was seriously injured. All that we have received from the hon. Gentleman's Department is a letter saying that there is no insurance coverage and that it is up to individual nurses to take out their own insurance. Is not this a most scandalous state of affairs, and one which the hon. Gentleman should look into immediately?

Mr. Alison

I think the hon. Gentleman knows, from the letter which I wrote to him on 5th July, that we admit that the present arrangements are not satisfactory. He will also know that there are possibilities and facilities for ex gratia payments in special cases. But I would rather not comment in detail on what measures may be applied to a particular individual.

Mrs. Castle

Has not a scandalous situation been revealed by the case which my hon. Friend has brought to the attention of the House? May we be told what is to be done, and when?

Mr. Alison

I think the right hon. Lady knows that in the Superannuation Act, 1972, we have taken power to remedy the situation, but the precise details of the provisions—which may well be retrospective in their application—are still a matter for consultation and it would not be proper to divulge what arrangements are to be made.

Mr. Molloy

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that we are reaching a dangerous situation in the employment of both State Registered Nurses and midwives? Often a State Registered Nurse goes on to become a midwife, and very often, in either capacity, she has to travel in busy areas. Indeed, she is sometimes subjected to risks of a kind for which many other industrial workers would be paid danger money. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a need for a comprehensive review of the entire situation?

Mr. Alison

I think the hon. Gentleman knows that when, in the case of injury or illness, it is expected that the patient will recover and resume duty, the normal sick pay arrangements apply. The problem arises in the case of death or permanent injury. We admit that there are gaps, and we hope that they will be more than adequately covered by the new proposals.