HL Deb 24 April 1980 vol 408 cc883-6

3.12 p.m.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

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 whether they are aware of the considerable concern, indignation and frustration of physiotherapists and speech therapists as a result of the recommendations of the Clegg Committee on their rates of pay and conditions of service.


My Lords, the Government are well aware of the strong reactions of the NHS staff concerned to certain aspects of the Clegg Report on the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Pay Group. How- ever, full agreement on the basis of implementation of the Clegg award was reached yesterday within the Professional and Technical 'A' Whitley Council, which is the negotiating body for these professions. Fresh discussions will begin on 15th May within the Whitley Council on the further pay settlement due to this group for the current year.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Would he not agree that this is only part of the problem? Can he give an assurance that the status of physiotherapists and speech therapists and others will not be diminished by this unfortunate report? Does he agree that rehabilitation services could be damaged in the National Health Service if morale is low among therapists?


My Lords, the noble Baroness and I, certainly, are well aware of the magnificent job which these professions do. Only yesterday I received a letter from my noble friend Lord Rankeillour, who, as some of your Lordships may know, recently had a serious accident, to say what wonderful work the physiotherapists were doing both in Inverness and Fort William in giving him remedial treatment.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that what has really offended the occupational therapists, for whom I speak, and other professions for whom the noble Baroness speaks, is the total lack of appreciation in this report of the magnificent contribution which these professions make to the rehabilitation of very serious cases of injury and handicap? May I ask the noble Lord whether the Government will recognise this as a pretty shoddy piece of workmanship on the part of Clegg?


My Lords, I do not think that I should really comment on the Clegg Report. As the House will know, the terms of reference were agreed by the Whitley Council and the last Government. The last Government agreed to accept the findings of the report, and there was really nothing we could do other than to agree.

The Earl of HALSBURY

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall how, only five years ago, the Whitley Council system having broken down, two bodies under my chairmanship managed to bring order out of chaos and align all these salaries with one another to the satisfaction of everyone, and that the consequence of it being handled piecemeal ever after has been that it has got back into the mess it was in? Have the Government any proposals for reimposing unity through a unified command over this structure?


My Lords, the whole House will know of the part the noble Earl played in these negotiations years ago. Certainly what he has said will be looked at with interest by my right honourable friend.


My Lords, will the noble Lord appreciate that there has been a continuing concern? The hopes of the professions supplementary to medicine were raised, thinking that Professor Clegg would produce some long-term solution to the question of their status and relationship to other professions within the medical field. Will he not be deceived by the fact that they are reasonable people? They have agreed to co-operate so far as is possible, but further negotiations are continuing into the next pay round, and it really is not satisfactory that the situation for these people should carry on like this year after year.


My Lords, I do not quite know how to reply to that. What the future will be I am unable to say, but I am well aware of the dissatisfaction that has been created in many quarters by some of the Clegg findings. I do know that the future is under consideration and that there may be some changes.


My Lords, has my noble friend's attention been drawn to paragraph 47 of the report, which seems to imply that physiotherapists need no special training and no special skills even although, as my noble friend will be aware, they have to undergo three years of training for which many of them receive no pay? Will he convey to his right honourable friend the disgust which many people in this House and elsewhere will feel at what is a slur on a distinguished and hard-working profession? Will he ask the usual channels whether the question of a much fuller debate on this vital matter can be taken up?


My Lords, I shall certainly pass on to my right honourable friend what the noble Lord has said. If he wishes to suggest that we have a debate on this subject, I have no doubt that he will put the suggestion forward and it will be considered.