HC Deb 21 December 1988 vol 144 cc431-3
4. Mr. David Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what instructions he gave to the Greater Glasgow health board regarding regrading of nurses following the recent meeting of his junior Minister with the Royal College of Nurses and the Royal College of Midwives.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

Officials of the board were informed of concerns which had been expressed by the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister realise that he and the Greater Glasgow health board are making an absolute mess of nurses' regrading? Will he ensure that Greater Glasgow health board comes into line with all the others in Scotland and gives Glasgow nurses the regrading that they deserve?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman has his facts wrong, and he will find that the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives disagree with him. Following discussions with the board, the problems associated with grading in wards where there is only one nursing sister on duty was resolved. I understand that after restructuring is implemented, Glasgow's grading profile will be in line with the rest of Scotland.

Mr. McKelvey

Does the Minister realise that this morning the alternative select committee on Scottish affairs was launched, and that its first subject for investigation is the Health Service in Scotland? In the interests of the Scottish people, will he give an undertaking that he will gladly appear before that committee if required, and will allow his civil servants and health boards to give the evidence that, obviously, they so desperately want to give to that committee?

Mr. Forsyth

In view of the question that was asked a few minutes ago, I welcome any attempts by Opposition Members to make themselves better informed on what is happening within the National Health Service. I am only too delighted to meet any right hon. or hon. Member wishing to raise Health Service issues.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my hon. Friend remind the House of the average percentage increase paid to nurses in Scotland? Will he remind the House also how their pay compares in real terms with that prevailing in 1979? Does he agree that it is irresponsible of COHSE and NUPE members to indulge in industrial action, which merely prevents patients from undergoing the operations that they need?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. COHSE and NUPE signed up for the regrading proposals and were party to them. They did not inform their members of the consequences of the agreement that they reached, and when the going got rough they ratted on the agreement to which they were a party. The majority of nurses have benefited considerably, not only in terms of increased pay, which was recommended by the independent review body, but from the new structure enabling nurses continuing to be involved in clinical work to be rewarded. My hon. Friend is right to point to the irresponsible behaviour of COHSE and NUPE. Fortunately, the Royal College of Nursing behaved responsibly and delivered the best possible deal for its members.

Under the last Labour Government, nurses' pay was cut by 21 per cent., but under the present Government it has increased by 45 per cent.

Mr. Galbraith

I will not let the Minister get away with that. He ought to be condemning those responsible for the shambles in the Greater Glasgow health board, not the trade unions. I shall assist the Minister to be better informed. Greater Glasgow health board was totally out of line with every other health board in the country, and it backed down only because of pressure brought by my hon. Friends. That was the reason.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Question, please.

Mr. Galbraith

Does the Minister admit that he knew Greater Glasgow health board would be totally out of line and that he should have done something earlier? Is he not culpable for the shambles in Greater Glasgow health board?

Mr. Forsyth

The Greater Glasgow health board has more multi-sister wards than others in Scotland but has particular difficulties. As I have said already, its profile, following restructuring, will be similar to that of other boards in Scotland. As a Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Gentleman would do well to take a little care in some of his accusations against the Greater Glasgow health board, which will subsequently turn out to be unsubstantiated. In the circumstances it will have to wait a long time for an apology from the hon. Gentleman.