§ Mr. Wareing
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the representations he has received during the past 12 months on the shortage of specialist intensive care nurses; what his response has been in each case; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Newton
During the past 12 months the Department has received some 40 letters which refer to the598W shortage of specialist intensive care nurses. In responding to those letters, we have explained that although there have been significant increases in qualified nursing staff working in intensive care units (for example, a 75 per cent. increase in general intensive care and 142 per cent. in paediatric intensive care between 1981 and 1986) and an increase of 15 per cent. in the number of nurses undergoing specialist training in intensive care in the year ending 31 March 1987 over the previous year, we recognise there are staffing difficulties in some locations. Action is being taken to overcome these difficulties. Current central activities include a joint NHS-DHSS working group on equal opportunities for women which is aiming to find better ways of retaining existing staff; the Nursing and Midwifery Staff Negotiating Council is reviewing the nursing clinical grading structure with the aim of creating a more flexible structure which can recognise individual skills and responsibility; the regional health authority chairmen have commissioned a study to examine factors influencing recruitment and retention and suggest improvements; and a career development project group has been set up to examine the scope for more attractive career goals for nurses.