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West Indian Nurses (Training Scheme)

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 13 June 1945

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42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to announce particulars of a scheme under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act for the nursing training of West Indian nursing recruits for four years in a composite nursing course in Britain; to what extent and by whom this training scheme has already been put into operation; and whether he has approached the voluntary hospitals with teaching schools attached with a view to their assisting the scheme.

As the particulars requested are long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate in the Official Report a reply to the first two parts of the Question. I should like, however, to take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the hon. Member for the part which he has played in the successful institution of this scheme. As regards the last part of the Question, any such extension should, I consider, await the report, which will reach me within a few days, of the Committee which, under Lord Rushcliffe's Chairmanship, has been examining the training of nurses for work in Colonial territories generally.

Whilst thanking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for his very generous reference, might I ask whether that report will deal specifically with the question of securing for Colonial nursing aspirants training in the voluntary hospitals with medical schools attached?

I have not yet seen the report, but it will cover the whole question of training nurses, and will undoubtedly cover that particular point.

Following is the statement:

Scheme for the Training of Eighteen West Indian Nurses Annually in the London County Council's Hospitals.

The London County Council in 1943 offered to accept, annually, for a period of four years, eighteen West Indian girls for a four-year course of general nursing training in the Council's hospitals. After consultation with the Comptroller for Development and Welfare and the West Indian Governments concerned, I gratefully accepted this offer.

Under the scheme, girls from Barbados, British Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and the Windward Islands, are eligible for selection, provided that they satisfy the conditions laid down as to educational qualifications and medical fitness. Selection is made by boards set up in each Colony. The composition of these boards varies in the different Colonies, but it was agreed that in all cases the board should include the Director of Medical Services, or an officer holding an equivalent post, and the Resident Surgeon and the Matron of the chief hospital. I have suggested that the Governments concerned should consider the inclusion in each board of two non-official members.

Selections are submitted, before being sent forward to the London County Council, to the Medical Adviser to the Comptroller, who, if there are more candidates than vacancies, will be in a position to make recommendations for the allocation of the vacancies.

While it is proposed that, so far as possible, the most suitable candidates should be selected irrespective of the Colony from which they come, the requirements of the smaller Colonies will be kept in mind in the final selection of candidates. Under the scheme, no candidates will be eligible for selection from Colonies whose nursing standards may in future be accorded recognition, in the form of reciprocal registration, by the General Nursing Council in this country.

Selected candidates are required to sign a bond requiring them to serve, after satisfactory completion of training, for a period of five years in any West Indian Colony in which posts of appropriate status are available.

The London County Council house and feed the nurses in training and pay them at the usual rates. The Colonial Office is responsible for welfare arrangements and for passages from and to the West Indies. To meet the expenditure thus involved to provide outfit allowances and incidental expenses, and to supplement each nurse's earnings by an amount sufficient to enable her to meet reasonable personal expenses in this country, a free grant of £26,250 has been made under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act.

The first batch of seven student nurses began their training in London in December, 1944, and another batch is expected to arrive shortly.

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied with the present arrangements associated with the West Indian Nursing Training Scheme in Britain for the impartial selection and approval of West Indian applicants for inclusion in this scheme by means of insular selection boards; and whether, within a definite period of time, he will consider establishing a West Indian Federal Nursing Board carefully chosen mainly of non-official elements.

I consider that the present arrangements are reasonably satisfactory. The question of appointing a Federal Nursing Board will be considered, with other possible modifications of the existing scheme, in the light of experience of the working of the present arrangements, which became effective only six months ago.

When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is reviewing this scheme will he have regard to the desirability for securing uniformity and basing his views on some further consideration of a Federal Board dealing with the whole question?

I will certainly consider that. It is obviously important to get uniformity. At the present time, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we are trying to get it through the Comptroller's organisations.

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think that such a scheme as this is at all appropriate for West Africa?

I think we had better wait and see the general report on training as a whole.