HC Deb 07 February 1978 vol 943 cc1228-30
13. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many hospital beds are out of action owing to shortages of nursing staff.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Roland Moyle)

I regret that this information is not available centrally, but it is known that temporary closures of wards do occur from time to time due to temporary and local shortages of staff.

Mr. Hannam

Is the Minister aware that operating theatre work in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, in my constituency, is being cut back severely because of the shortage of trained nurses? Does the Government's attitude to private medicine mean that we shall continue to have a deteriorating situation in the NHS?

Mr. Moyle

I do not know what the relationship between private medicine and the NHS has to do with the Question. We offer a universal service to anyone who wants it. With regard to operating theatres in Woodford Hospital, there is a cutback of 20 per cent. in theatre sessions at present due to the shortage of theatre nurses. That is because it is not easy to recruit theatre nurses. I am happy to say that the number of registered and enrolled nurses attending joint courses for theatre nursing has increased.

Mr. Litterick

Can the Minister tell the House how many qualified nurses are now employed in the 40 new and privately owned hospitals, clinics and homes that were opened in England last year?

Mr. Moyle

No, I cannot answer that Question without notice. But I can tell my hon. Friend that the number of whole time qualified nurses employed by the National Health Service has gone up from 205,000 to 214,000 in the year March 1976 to March 1977, which is the last year for which we have figures.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Since the under-used beds to which this Question refers inevitably means longer waiting lists, will the Minister now answer the question about the bogus £9½ million mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan) a few moments ago? Is it not now clear that the Secretary of State tried to pretend that there was an additional £9½ million to be spent when this is not so? Is it not the case that he has now been rumbled as all gab and no action?

Mr. Moyle

I have never heard a supplementary question with so many misconceptions in it during the time that I have been a Member of the House of Commons. The Question had nothing to do with under-used beds. My right hon. Friend gave no more than the truth when he gave the answer which he did.

Mr. Jenkin

Answer the question.

Mr. Moyle

I have answered the question. The right hon. Gentleman has asked a question which at this stage is not on the Order Paper.

Mr. Jenkin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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