HC Deb 29 June 1988 vol 136 cc352-4
7. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the cost of the recent pay award to nurses in each health board area.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

We have already announced that an additional £92 million is to be made available in Scotland to finance the full additional cost of the review body awards. The distribution of that amount among the various health service bodies is currently being calculated. Health boards will be informed of their additional allocations shortly.

Mr. Ross

The Minister will know that he intends funding only the sum above the 4.5 per cent. that he believes to be the rate of inflation. The Grampian health board will receive only 4 per cent. for inflation, which leaves a shortfall of at least £500,000. What will the Minister do about that shortfall?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman chose the worst possible example to make his point. Grampian health board will have the biggest increase of any health board in Scotland. If he wished to seize on a board to make his point, he would have done better to choose his own health board of Tayside, which will not benefit from the 1 per cent. distribution of resources under the SHARE formula. The overall cash increase for health boards in Scotland is 5.8 per cent., which is well ahead of inflation. We have chosen to allocate that in three parts: first, the flat rate 4 per cent. allocation to all health boards, then a further 1 per cent. distributed differentially according to the SHARE formula and then an additional 0.8 per cent, to meet specific priority areas such as breast cancer, AIDS and the waiting list initiative, from which Tayside, along with other boards that are not benefiting from growth on the SHARE formula, will benefit.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend agree that under the last Labour Government nurses' pay fell substantially in real terms? Does he also agree that the fact that thousands of new nurses have come into the Health Service since 1979 in Scotland shows that they believe that the Conservative party accepts patient care as the first priority? Does he further agree that they welcome warmly the new structure for nurses' pay?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is quite right. Under the Labour Government nurses' pay fell by more than 20 per cent. in real terms, whereas under this Government it has increased by 44 per cent. in real terms. For those who dismiss such figures as mere statistics, that means that a sister's income will have increased by as much as £5,000 in real terms as a result of this Government being in power.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Will the Minister confirm, or correct, the impression that in granting extra funds to the Health Service to fund nurses' pay the Government omitted from their calculations those nurses who work in hospice care?

Mr. Forsyth

No, I cannot confirm that. If the hon. Gentleman is thinking of hospitals in the private or independent sector, which are run as voluntary hospitals, as many hospices are, they would not be affected by our commitment as they are not funded by the Government.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Is not one of the greatest advantages of this nursing settlement that it allows us to pay the proper rate for the job, which is needed by qualified nurses if we are to uphold the NHS?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree with my hon. Friend——

Mr. Galbraith

Does the Minister know what his hon. Friend said?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) asks me what my hon. Friend said. The hon. Gentleman should have listened to what he said. My hon. Friend was making a point which, as a Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Gentleman should welcome, namely, that, as a result of the pay review body recommendations, nurses who are involved in clinical duties will be rewarded. For the first time we are providing nurses with a career structure that does not take them into administration if they wish to remain at the patient's bedside.

Mr. Galbraith

The Minister should not get so angry so easily. As he knows, I have written to every health board in Scotland on this matter and, as the Minister will also know, because they are now in the habit of making private correspondence available to him, they have replied saying that they do not know how much the nurses' pay award will cost, because of the regrading. If, as a result of the regrading, the award costs more than £92 million. will the Minister make the extra funds available?

Mr. Forsyth

On the point about private correspondence, if the hon. Gentleman has looked at the letter that was sent to him by Grampian health board he will see that it was copied to other Members of Parliament representing that area. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) along with others, wrote to me about that.. The hon. Gentleman should check his facts before he makes such allegations.

On the hon. Gentleman's questions about the extra costs of the awards, the overall provision of expenditure for the hospital and community health service took into account——

Dr. Moonie

Yes or no?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman says, "Yes or no?", but the position is that the costs of the review body recommendations were calculated on the basis of the information that was supplied by the boards themselves.