HC Deb 27 April 1988 vol 132 cc337-9
6. Mr. Galloway

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the work of Scotland's radiographers within the National Health Service.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Radiographers play an essential part in a range of diagnostic and therapeutic services.

Mr. Galloway

Scotland's X-ray men and women will clearly see through the hypocritical cant of that answer. The Government have given early retirement opportunities at the age of 55 to physiotherapists and many grades of nurses on the ground that their work is strenuous. Why have they refused to allow radiographers to be considered for early retirement? Is their job not strenuous? Why are radiographers not being given a fair crack of the whip, when they are such an essential and hard-working part of Scotland's Health Service?

Mr. Forsyth

As to the question of cant, I remind the hon. Gentleman that under this Government radiographer's salaries have gone up in real terms by about 40 per cent. Under the Labour Government, which he supported, their salaries decreased in real terms by 21 per cent.

The facility to retire at the age of 55 within the National Health Service is a legacy from before the inception of the National Health Service. It was carried across to protect the rights of those who had an expectation to retire at an earlier age than the accepted norm.

As regards the nature of the job, the National Radiological Protection Board has recently issued advice on exposure limits, and that advice envisages a full working life up to the age of 65.

Mr. Doran

As well as the shortage of radiographers in the Health Service, the Minister will be well aware that there is a shortage of heart treatment facilities in the Aberdeen area. Will he tell the House when he expects to be in a position to make a statement on the review body's findings, with particular reference to the shortage in Aberdeen?

Mr. Forsyth

First, I advise the hon. Gentleman that there is not a shortage of radiographers in the Health Service. Indeed, quite recently there was concern that there might be an over-supply. We have increased the numbers substantially. Secondly, on his question about providing additional facilities for cardiac surgery in the National Health Service, I shall be answering a written question tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) today on that matter.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend agree that on top of the largest ever expenditure on the Health Service, which has been made in the current year, the Government have announced additional expenditure of £1.38 billion including, of course, the welcome pay award for nurses? Does that not show strongly that the Government really do care about health care and that they are determined to have the finest standards in the world?

Mr. Forsyth

Under this Government the Health Service in Scotland will receive rather more than an additional £200 million this year. That brings spending on the National Health Service to record levels—up by some 28 per cent. in real terms. We have the biggest capital investment programme and our nurses are better paid than ever before. If I may give just one example, the maximum salary for a sister on an acute ward will now be £13,925, which represents an increase of 16 per cent., as a result of the pay review award. That represents an increase in pay for sisters who have responsibilities on acute wards of 55 per cent. in real terms or of £4,945 since 1979, so we do not want any lectures from Opposition Members, who presided over cuts in nurses' pay.