HC Deb 09 September 1942 vol 383 cc173-5W
Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can now make any further statement as to the policy of His Majesty's Government regarding the nursing service in West Africa?

Mr. Harold Macmillan

On previous occasions it has been emphasised in reply to Questions that it is the declared policy of Government that there should be no discrimination on the ground of colour in filling appointments in the Government Service in West Africa. The Secretary of State has also emphasised in despatches to various Governments the importance he attaches to the increased employment of Colonial men and women in their own countries provided that they are suitably qualified not only by professional attainment but also by personality and character. To ensure that these requirements are met, candidates for the Colonial nursing service, whatever their origin, are interviewed by the Overseas Nursing Association on behalf of the Secretary of State, and appointed or rejected on its report. In order that the present satisfactory status of that Service may be maintained, it is of importance that there should be no lowering of the standards which have been applied in the past and they must be applied to all races without discrimination, even though this may seem to bear hardly on candidates who may not have enjoyed the same educational or cultural advantages as others. With this, I am sure all who have the interests of Colonial peoples at heart, will agree, for it is to be remembered that candidates selected for the Colonial nursing service are often required to carry out, even in their first year of service, duties in regard to hospital supervision and training of subordinate staff which here would only be expected of Matrons or Sister Tutors with long nursing experience.

Up to the present very few girls from the Colonial Empire have come to this country for training as nurses, partly because they have had to come at their own expense, and partly because relatively few girls in Colonial territories have received the standard of general education required of probation nurses by hospitals here. This latter provision is being rapidly rectified, since the Secretary of State has stressed the importance of raising the standard of female education, and the Governments of Colonial territories have not been slow to appreciate the difficulties which arise when there is any great discrepancy between the standards of male and female education. Consideration is being given in the formulation of post-war plans to schemes providing Government assistance for sending selected girls to this country to train as nurses, but it must be realised that the number who can thus be accommodated is limited by the number of vacancies which can be made available in teaching hospitals for overseas candidates, and this number must necessarily be small since these hospitals must provide also for the needs of institutions and services in this country. While this scholarship scheme may help, it cannot possibly provide nurses' on the scale requisite for the proper staffing of Colonial hospitals and health departments, and it is essential to arrange for training facilities as nurses for girls in their own countries and for this purpose to supply sister tutors trained in the teaching methods and discipline common to hospitals here. After qualification Colonial nurses who had been specially selected for ability and character, could then be brought to this country for special courses, and plans are in hand for improving after the war the facilities for providing such courses.