§ Mr. Pavitt
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will institute a departmental inquiry into the reasons why 7,411 qualified nurses are unemployed; if he will examine resources allocation to establish the extent to which the nursing sector has been cut compared with other sectors; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
I do not consider that a departmental inquiry into the reasons why qualified nurses are unemployed would serve any useful purpose. Health authorities are responsible for the distribution of resources to the different services within their areas. In planning their services they are expected to take account of departmental guidance, but health authorities must judge for themselves how best to use the resources allocated to them and to assess staffing levels in the light of local needs and priorities.
The nurse staffing picture will obviously vary between localities and specialties, but the latest staffing figures centrally available show that the numbers of nursing and 156W midwifery staff employed in the NHS in England continue to increase. Provisional figures for September 1981 show that the whole-time equivalent of all nursing and midwifery staff, including unqualified nursing staff and agency nurses and midwives, rose from 358,400 in September 1979 to 392,200 in September 1981, an increase of 33,800 over the two-year period. In 1980, the working week was reduced from 40 hours to 37½ hours and part of the increase will be accounted for by additional staff recruited as a direct result of this change.