HL Deb 29 April 1976 vol 370 cc216-8

3.9 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many nurses from old and new Commonwealth countries are now employed in general and psychiatric hospitals in the United Kingdom; and what facilities are currently available to British-born nurses who wish to work in hospitals in the Commonwealth.


My Lords, information about the countries of origin of nursing staff is not regularly collected other than for trainees. On 31st December 1974 there were approximately 91,000 trainee nurses and midwives of whom 6,900 were recruited direct from the Commonwealth. British nurses who wish to work in the Commonwealth would have to comply with the entry requirements of the particular country and local regulations on the right to practise as a nurse.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that helpful Answer. Would he accept that the role which our Commonwealth nurses play in this country is a very valuable one? Would he also accept that there are encouraging signs of more British-born nurses being recruited into our psychiatric hospitals?—and long may that continue. But would he, if necessary, make representations to some of the Commonwealth Governments to facilitate nurses who wish to do a period of training, particularly in the new Commonwealth countries, being able to do so, so that they can bring valuable experience both to those countries and also to their country of origin?


My Lords, I am very glad to have the opportunity afforded me by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, to express not only the thanks of the Government to those from the Commonwealth who are nursing in this country, but to the countries as a whole. It is perfectly true that the number of trainees recruited from overseas countries generally, and not just those from the Commonwealth, has declined since 1970. Now that most health authorities are finding it easier to recruit trainees many schools are, as the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, no doubt knows, full for the next 18 months, it would not be surprising if fewer students were recruited directly from the Commonwealth and overseas in the year ahead.

With regard to the third point, as the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, may know, there are a fair number of nurses in this country who apply not only to Commonwealth countries but to other countries to go to work there for periods of time in order to get further experience and an idea of the various methods that are adopted. In fact, the General Nursing Council received 5,163 applications from nurses trained abroad to come here, and about 5,565 verifications have been sent by the General Nursing Council to other countries in respect of nurses in this country who, for a variety of reasons—either to see the world or a particular country—want to work there while they are doing so.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend, as a matter of interest, whether the plural noun "nurses" includes young men as well as women?


My Lords, I understand that it does.


My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House—I know this is another question although it is highly relevant—of the proportion of those nurses from abroad who, having completed their training, return to their country of origin?


My Lords, a person who comes here to be trained as a nurse has to satisfy her own country, before she can practise there, that she is in fact qualified and possesses all the necessary professional qualifications in this country. I mentioned that the General Nursing Council received requests for verifications in respect of 5,565 nurses in the year ending 31st March last year, and that would indicate that perhaps a high proportion of those, or a large number of them, are in fact Commonwealth nurses who have come to this country for training and may want to return.