§ 7. Mr. Bright
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many nurses and midwives there are in the National Health Service now; and how many there were in 1979.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
At 30 September 1988, there were 403,900 whole-time equivalent nursing and midwifery staff in the National Health Service in England. The comparable figure for September 1979 was 358,400 886 whole-time equivalents. That is an increase of 12.7 per cent. The increase in qualified staff over the same period was 26 per cent.
§ Mr. Bright
Does my hon. Friend agree that, once again, those figures nail the lie that the Government are making cuts in the National Health Service? Is it not also a fact that since 1979 the average nurse's pay has risen by about 43 per cent. in real terms?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
My hon. Friend, as ever, is extremely well informed. I can confirm those figures. Once again, they are a clear indication of the Government's support for the Health Service. I can inform my hon. Friend further that in inner London, for example, a top-grade sister is now earning £17,000—50 per cent. more than she would have done 10 years ago.
§ Mr. Robin Cook
Does the Minister recall her own parliamentary answers to me which showed that there was a bigger increase in the number of nurses and doctors in five years of the previous Labour Government than there has been in 10 years of this Government? Is not the achievement on which she is inviting the House to congratulate the Government the achievement of having managed to more than halve the rates of increase in both professions?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
I find it surprising that the hon. Gentleman should wish to draw attention to his own record in Government when those very nurses—my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) referred to their considerable pay increase of 43 per cent.—saw their pay fall by 21 per cent. under the Labour Government.