asked the Minister of Health how many hospital wards have had to be closed for the lack of staff; how many hospitals are affected and what part of the country is most seriously affected; what is the cause of this situation; and how he proposes to overcome it.
My information is that at the end of June, there were over 50,000 beds closed for lack of staff. The hospitals were situated in most parts of England and Wales, though more in the populous counties. Causes and possible remedies have recently been examined in the Report of the Working Party on the Recruitment and Training of Nurses, on which I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) on 23rd October.
In view of the very serious statement that 50,000 beds are to be closed for lack of nurses, I would ask the Minister if he will bear specially in mind the needs of the hospitals in rural districts when getting more nurses, in view of the fact that in those cases there are no neighbouring hospitals near by.
Certainly, I am fully aware of the needs of the rural areas, and when I receive advice from the various professional bodies on the Working Party's report, I hope to reach certain conclusions which will help the situation.