HC Deb 07 February 1985 vol 72 cc1093-4
9. Rev. Martin Smyth

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the target norms for community doctors, nurses, psychiatric nurses, social workers and therapists set for the various health and social service boards; and whether he is satisfied that they have been met.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Chris Patten)

Target norms are generally not used by the Department of Health and Social Services as a basis for determining priorities for service development, largely because they are not sensitive to local variation in service needs. The Department's existing regional guidelines for determining priorities are set out in circular HSS(P)1/80, a copy of which is available in the Library.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Is the Minister satisfied that there are enough people in post, in the western board area in particular, to serve the needs of the people? Should not more attention be paid to raising the level of provision of community doctors and workers in that area and others?

Mr. Patten

We have been attempting to do so. The Department has consistently increased funds to community services at a faster rate than those to institutional services over the past decade. We shall continue to do so, whatever the occasional difficulties.

Mr. Bell

Has not the number of unemployed nurses in Northern Ireland spiralled from about 350 when the Government took office to between 1,450 and 1,500? That is the number of qualified nursing personnel who are available for work but cannot be employed by any of the four area health boards because of insufficient funding. Is it not also true that there is a major psychiatric hospital in Antrim which is understaffed to the extent of 100 trained nursing personnel?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that the number of qualified nurses in Northern Ireland has spiralled over the past five years. There are 2,000 more of them now than there were when the hon. Gentleman's party left office. More nurses are unemployed because more qualified nurses are staying on than was once the case.