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Public Health

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 8 May 1947

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Nurses (Shortage)


asked the Minister of Health if he contemplates further improvement in the pay and conditions of service of the nursing profession, with increased scales of pensions and a general advance in the status of hospital nurses, as an essential constituent part of national health service.

The whole status and position of nurses will have to be reviewed in the light of the report of the Working Party on Recruitment and Training. Pending this review I cannot express an opinion on the Questions raised by the hon. Member.

Does the Minister realise that a serious situation is created owing to the shortage of nurses? Is he taking any definite steps to intensify the recruitment to the nursing profession?

As the hon. Member knows, I am very much alive to this matter, arid there is an intense recruiting campaign going on all the time. Indeed, I believe that there is an exhibition in Birmingham at the moment in connection with it. I am very anxious to get this report. Immediately I have it I shall be able to consider what to do.

Will the right hon, Gentleman take great care to preserve the interests of those nurses who have served for many years, but who do not happen to have passed certain examinations, and do not happen to hold certain certificates, and who, therefore, are in danger of being pushed out because of the change in the basis of entry into the profession? If they were to go it would be a great loss to the hospitals, for they are very valuable nurses.

When is the House likely to be able to read the report to which the right hon. Gentleman referred?


asked the Minister of Health if he has had under consideration the embarrassing situation which has arisen in hospital administration in Birmingham owing to shortage of nurses; and if he proposes to intensify the campaign for recruitment of nurses in consultation with the health departments of local authorities.

Yes, Sir. The hon. Member will be aware of the extensive Nursing Exhibition held in Birmingham from 29th April to 3rd May to encourage recruitment to the nursing profession.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of when he contemplates an improvement in the conditions of service and the remuneration of nurses?

It would be extremely discourteous of me to appoint a working party to make a report and then to anticipate them by a public statement.

Women Doctors (Training)


asked the Minister of Health, in view of the shortage of women doctors, what additional facilities are being provided for training medical students.

All provincial medical schools admit women students up to between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. of the annual intake, and the London schools have now all agreed to take a proportion of women as soon as accommodation can be provided. This should be ready for the 1947–48 session.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many applicants are still waiting, and whether the facilities provided will absorb all those applicants? There are not sufficient women doctors to meet the demands.

Aural Aids


asked the Minister of Health what progress he has made with regard to the manufacture and distribution of aural aid outfits at reasonable prices.

My bright hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has already placed contracts for the manufacture of these aids. He hopes that enough will be available to make a start with distribution when the National Health Service begins. They will then be available without charge to patients for whom they are prescribed.

Ambulances (Local Authorities)


asked the Minister of Health what arrangements have been made centrally with those in control of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society for the taking over or use of their ambulances by local health authorities under the National Health Service Acts.

The statutory duty rests on local health authorities, who may make arrangements for the use of voluntary bodies' vehicles and staff. No arrangements are, therefore, being made centrally.

Have any instructions been sent from the central authorities to the local branches?

Yes, the local authorities are being made aware of their statutory rights in this matter, but there have been no central directions.

I was referring to the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the British Red Cross Society, and I want to know whether instructions have been given. by those organisations to their local branches.

I do not know; and, of course, I have no responsibility for them, for they are voluntary organisations.

City Of London (Employees' Strike)


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the dead are lying unburied, streets remain uncleaned and public conveniences are closed in the City of London through unofficial strikes; and what action His Majesty's Government have taken in the matter in the interests of health and humanity and to prevent a recurrence of such a state of affairs.

I am aware that the Corporation of London are unable to arrange for burials in their own cemetery, and that they have had to suspend street cleansing and to close public conveniences. While I much regret the inconvenience which is caused to the public, I do not consider that any immediate danger to public health is threatened, but I am keeping the situation under review.

Will the Minister, in view of this very unsatisfactory state of affairs, promise every possible assistance to the local authority should they need it, and if they are unable or unwilling to take action themselves will he take it for them?

I regard the stoppage of the workers who are responsible for burying and for scavenging, and other services of a vital health nature, as fundamentally irresponsible. If this strike does not end very quickly, I shall take action.

As the irresponsibility may be on the part of those who impose conditions that make such a strike possible, will the right hon. Gentleman take up with the local authorities the question of the working conditions of the men?

There is no body of workers in Great Britain who have made available to them better conciliation machinery than the employees of local authorities. I consider that suspension of scavenging and burying is an act of utter irresponsibility.