HC Deb 27 March 1984 vol 57 cc125-6
3. Mrs. Jill Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to ensure that the nurse staffing levels of the Queen Elizabeth and the General hospital in Birmingham are improved.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. John Patten)

Nurse staffing levels at the Queen Elizabeth and General hospitals, Birmingham, are the day-to-day responsibility of the health authorities concerned.

Mrs. Knight

Is my hon. Friend aware that the nurse staffing levels at both hospitals, which are teaching hospitals for acutely ill patients, are at the bottom of the national league for staffing levels and that they have been described by consultants working there as dangerous? Is he aware, for example, that fledgling nurses, with the ink hardly dry on their qualifications, are sometimes looking after a whole ward at night? Can he imagine the consternation at the statement by the chairman of the relevant health authority that the £100,000 available for extra nurses would be spread over just a few nurses throughout the whole are and would not benefit the Queen Elizabeth and General hospitals?

Mr. Patten

I am aware of some of the problems to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention, and I shall look at them. It is significant that the district health authority has injected an extra £100,000 into nurse staffing levels, and doubtless it has the situation under control.

Mr. Corbett

Will the Minister stop being complacent and acknowlege that large parts of Birmingham are underprivileged compared with the region and country as a whole? Furthermore, does he accept that it is a question not merely of quantity—important though that is—but of the quality of the staff? As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) has pointed out, there are large numbers of wards in which patients are being left irresponsibly in unqualified or semi-gualified hands? What does the Minister propose to do about that?

Mr. Patten

The Department of Health and Social Security is not complacent about anything. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman is lamentably ill-informed about the situation in his own area. During 1984–85 the West Midlands regional health authority will receive gross money disproportionate to that received by other regions.