HC Deb 17 June 1981 vol 6 cc1013-4
12. Mr. McTaggart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the provision of nurse training in Scotland.

Mr. Fairgrieve

The Scottish position is broadly satisfactory, though there are one or two areas of local difficulty.

Mr. McTaggart

Is the Minister aware of the real anger and resentment felt among nurse teachers in Scotland due to the fact that their numbers are falling along with their living standards? Does not he feel that the time is now appropriate for them to be properly represented at the Whitley council?

Mr. Fairgrieve

It would be much easier if hon. Members gave correct facts. In fact, the opposite is the case and 30 nurses undertook the teachers' training course in 1980 compared with only 23 in 1979 and 17 in 1978.

Mr. Henderson

Will my hon. Friend give further consideration to psychiatric nurse training? Will he consider whether mature persons might be recruited for that training without having to receive complete and overall professional nursing training—in other words, to specialise in psychiatric nursing?

Mr. Fairgrieve

I shall consider that possibility.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Does the Minister accept that one of the difficulties in attracting recruits, especially into the psychiatric sector, arises from his failure to introduce into the system medium security units to deal with the problem of patients who cannot be held in establishments such as the Carstairs and Liff hospitals?

Mr. Fairgrieve

That is not the whole answer. As I have said, nurses of all disciplines are increasing in numbers in Scotland. For the period up to 30 September 1979 there were 54,400. In 1979 there were 56,000 and in 1980 there were 58,000. It is a picture of increasing numbers.

Mr. Robert Hughes

If that is so, why is it that the Grampian health board is having to go as far as Newcastle to try to recruit nurses? It is unable to keep all its beds open because of a lack of nurses. Is not the Minister being complacent'?

Mr. Fairgrieve

The Minister is not complacent. Grampian is one of the areas where the nursing picture is pretty good. It would not be much of a country if people could not move around to go to jobs in different areas.

Mr. Harry Ewing

The Minister has said that the number of nurses in employment is rising. That may be true. However, does he accept that the figures that he supplied in a parliamentary answer of 26 January demonstrate that, for the first year for which he was responsible for the Health Service in Scotland until the end of the financial year in September 1980, the intake of student and pupil nurses fell to 5,059 from 5,117 the year before? Is that the pattern that is to continue throughout the hon. Gentleman's ministerial career?

Mr. Fairgrieve

The hon. Gentleman is having a bad afternoon over facts. During the period for which I have been responsible, the number of nurses and doctors in Scotland has increased year by year.

Mr. Harry Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for me to hand the Minister his own answer so that he may study the figures when Question Time has ended?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, but not at this moment.