HC Deb 09 February 1982 vol 17 cc851-2
14. Mr. Michael Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the forecast of the number of nurses to be employed in the National Health Service for the year 1981–82; and what is the latest figure available.

Mr. Fowler

The number of nurses to be employed is a matter determined by individual health authorities against the background of their needs and the resources available to meet those needs. The whole-time equivalent total of nurses and midwives employed in the National Health Service in England, including unqualified nursing staff and agency nurses, was 370,000 at 30 September 1980.

Mr. Morris

In determining nurses' pay, is it not a problem that no one at the DHSS can communicate to the Treasury how many nurses it should budget for in the coming year? Is that not one reason why nurses get shortchanged, resulting in an increase lower than the cash limit?

Mr. Fowler

That is not a reason for the difficulties that have been faced over the years. All I can say about pay is that the Whitley council meets later this month. We are committed to trying to find a better permanent arrangement for nurses' pay.

Mr. Carter-Jones

I shall ask a short question and I hope to receive a short answer. Is the right hon. Gentleman happy with the pay that nurses receive?

Mr. Fowler

Again, that is a matter for the Whitley council. For the past two and a half years we have sought to treat nurses fairly. That is why the pay bill for nurses has increased by 76 per cent.

Mr. Stokes

Do not the figures show that, on a supply and demand basis, the present pay levels of nurses cannot be far wrong? Much as we all admire nurses, should they not, as other public sector workers, be unselfish in their pay demands and consider the private sector, where there have been no pay increases and sometimes redundancies?

Mr. Fowler

We wish to see a permanent new arrangement whereby the nurses can achieve a fair deal year after year. What both sides of the House must wish to avoid are the annual crises that have been a feature of the past 10 to 20 years.

Mr. Dan Jones

Is the Secretary of State now saying that he is prepared to leave this important issue to be settled as a matter between the nurses and the Whitley council?

Mr. Fowler

Of course I am saying that, because that is the negotiating machinery whereby nurses' pay is determined.