HC Deb 10 July 1986 vol 101 cc264-5W
Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to his answer of 23 June, Official Report, columns 63-64, if he will make a statement on why there was a 3.8 per cent. decline in the number of nursing learners in England from 1983 to 1984; and what steps he proposes to take to halt the decline.

Mr. Hayhoe

The 3.8 per cent. (3010 whole-time equivalents) reduction in nurse learners between 1983 and 1984 relates to all nurse learners whether they are undertaking basic nurse training or post-basic health visiting, district nurse or midwifery training. The greatest change occurred in those undertaking enrolled nurse training where the numbers dropped by 3,250 WTEs during the period. Recruitment to such training may have been affected by uncertainty about the future of enrolled nursing following the issue of a consultative document by the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting proposing abolition of the grade. No decision has yet been made about this. However, the numbers undertaking registered nurse training increased by 230 WTEs.

Many factors affect the future demands for nurse training and the picture will obviously vary between localities and specialties. It is therefore the responsibility of each health authority to determine its policy for further recruitment of nurse learners within the priorities and resources available. The Government's policy of better manpower planning is encouraging health authorities to pay closer attention to the need to match their training programmes to realistic service plans. It seems that fewer qualified nurses are leaving the Health Service and this is reflected in the reduction in the numbers health authorities need to recruit into training.

The statutory body responsible for regulating nurse education and training (the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting) is currently consulting the professions about proposals for changes in the way nurses, midwives and health visitors are trained. When the council's firm proposals come forward for consideration by Ministers, one of the prime concerns will be to ensure that service needs can be met in any new arrangements which follow.