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Public Health

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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Tuberculosis (Treatment)


asked the Minister of Health when he expects to issue a report on the improved arrangements for the treatment of tuberculosis mentioned in Ministry of Health Circular No. 2741?

I hope to issue a further memorandum on this subject early next month.

Hospital Nurses (Rushcliffe Committee's Recommendations)

17 and 18.

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he has considered the letter sent to him by the Middlesex Medical Society in reference to the position of ward sisters as recommended by the Rushcliffe Committee; and whether he proposes to take any action to effect some improvement;

(2) whether he is aware that the recommendations of the Rushcliffe Committee relating to assistant nurses will not encourage suitable women to take up this work; and whether, in view of the special position they occupy through absence of the possibility of promotion, their position can be reconsidered?


asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the dissatisfaction expressed by the 200 doctors of the Middlesex County Medical Society with the Rushcliffe recommendation that a ward sister should be paid only £130 per annum plus £70 living-out allowance; and whether he proposes to reconsider this recommendation?

The recommendations of the Rushcliffe Committee are the result of a full examination of the question by a Committee consisting of two panels representing employers and employed respectively. I have commended to hospital authorities these recommendations, the adoption of which will secure for the first time uniform national scales for all grades of hospital nurses. I do not propose to take any action likely to prejudice the agreement which has been reached.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that as the most progressive public health authority is not represented on the employers' side, the Report in effect makes some of the workers worse off than they were before, and will he give an opportunity for the reconsideration of the matter?

I could not agree with that. The individual representatives of the employers' panels and the Royal College, the trade union concerned, all agree that this is the greatest advance ever made in the history of the nursing profession.

What will be the estimated financial advantage to the nursing profession as a whole if the Report is implemented?

The total additional cost of the proposals in a full year is estimated at £2,000,000.

Is the Minister aware that before a ward sister obtains that position, she has to work for many years, and is also responsible for the training of the students, and can the Minister honestly say that £130 a year, plus £70 living-out allowance, is a fair and just remuneration?

The hon. Lady had better look at the Report. She will see that there are figures for recommended increases in the salary of £130, rising by increments of £10 to £180, with one additional service increment of £20 after 10 years service, so that with emoluments the salary goes to from £230 to £300.

That is not my responsibility. The Royal College, the trade union concerned, formed the panel, and it is to them that the hon. Lady should address her question.

Is it not the case that the Royal College of Nurses is in no sense whatever a trade union and that the trade unions that represent the staffs are appalled at the character of this Report?

Is it not a fact that not only were the nursing bodies represented on the Committee, but that the Trades Union Congress and all the local authorities were represented?

Is it not a fact that the Middlesex County Council has sent a letter to the right hon. Gentleman pointing out the anomalies?

That may be so, but over a large scale of various grades of nurses it is perfectly simple, when long negotiations have taken place and there have been general decisions about a national standard, for any body to say that it does not agree with this, that or the other thing. I am defending what is a great advance on a national basis for the first time.

I beg to give notice that, owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Beveridge Report (Dentists, Opticians And Pharmacists)


asked the Minister of Health whether his conversations with the medical profession with regard to the implementation of the Beveridge Report will include discussions with allied professions, such as dentists, opticians and pharmacists?

Milk (Pasteurisation)


asked the Minister of Health how many eases of epidemic summer diarrhoea have arisen in the last year in infants under two years of age; how many of such were fed on pasteurised milk and how many on raw milk?

The information received in the Ministry from local authorities shows, for the last full year, 878 cases of epidemic diarrhoea in children under five years of age, but I regret that I have no separate figures for children under two. Nor can I say how many of these children were fed on pasteurised milk.

Is it not true that pasteurised milk is good for children and far better than dirty fresh milk?


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the fact that pasteurisation of milk kills the harmless lactic bacteria and thereby leaves a much better field for the growth of other dangerous diseases and putrefactive germs, he will prohibit pasteurised milk being fed to babies without notification?

No, Sir. I am advised that the keeping quality of milk is much improved by pasteurisation and that there is no scientific evidence for the statement that pathogenic organisms grow better in pasteurised milk than in clean raw milk.

Is it not a fact that in an experiment at Newcastle not many years ago, rats were fed on pasteurised milk and died of it?

Is the Minister aware that the suggestion contained in my Question is a fact which has been established both commercially and scientifically for many years and that it still holds good, and that pasteurisation does nothing towards destroying those bacteria which gain access to milk after it has been pasteurised?

I think my hon. Friend has overlooked the fact that when lactic bacilli have so soured milk that it is unfit for human consumption, the growth of other organisms may be inhibited by the acid produced.

If pasteurised milk is so bad for people, will the right hon. Gentleman feed Hitler on it?


asked the Minister of Health in view of the fact that pasteurisation is claimed to destroy the so-called bovine tubercle bacillus, what is the cause of the large number of cases of so-called bovine non-pulmonary tuberculosis in the London area where practically all the milk for domestic consumption is pasteurised?

I know of no evidence to support my hon. Friend's suggestion that there is a large number of cases of bovine non-pulmonary tuberculosis in the London area, nor of any evidence incompatible with the supposition that the great majority of cases of non-pulmonary tuberculosis in the London area are due to human infection.

Are not the replies of the Minister on this matter getting somewhat muddled and ought he not to seek guidance from the House instead of from the employés and lackeys of the big milk producers, the bacteriologists?

Evacuated Mothers (Return Fares From Maternity Homes)


asked the Minister of Health whether he can now make any statement regarding the payment of return fares to mothers who have been sent to hospitals outside London for their confinement?

Yes, Sir. While it is still the policy not to encourage the return to London of persons evacuated to emergency maternity homes outside London, I am making arrangements that will enable help to be given to mothers who are anxious to return but cannot pay their return fares without hardship.

Water Supply (Sedgefield Area)


asked the Minister of Health whether he has considered the protests from public bodies, individuals and the hon. Member for Sedgefield, complaining of the condition of the water supply which householders in Fishburn, Ferryhill and Sedgefield have to use, which is drawn from the local mines and which creates difficulty in washing and results in the bursting of hot-water pipes; and whether he has yet decided to deal adequately with the situation?

I have received representations on this matter, and I have had occasion to arrange for an inquiry to be held into certain applications which have a bearing on the point raised by my hon. Friend. He will appreciate, no doubt, that the responsibility for dealing adequately with the needs of consumers rests with the Water Board, but I will communicate further with him when I have had an opportunity of considering my Inspector's report.

Is the Minister aware that this has gone on for several months now and that he has actually refused the Water Board an opportunity of erecting a water softener, and that there is a real danger now in people lighting fires because it may cause burst pipes?

The hon. Member will understand that there are many more complications than that in this story, otherwise I would not have instituted an inquiry. I have received a comprehensive report and I shall be glad to talk to the hon. Member about it when I have had an opportunity fully to consider the report.