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Community Nurses (Cars)

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to provide cars for community nurses who need them to visit their patients, as recommended in the Acheson report on primary care.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security
(Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)

This is one of a number of recommendations in the Acheson report about the living and working conditions of community nurses. There is already provision in a national agreement of the general Whitley council for the allocation of Crown cars to staff who need them for their work. Only the health authority locally is in a position to assess the need for cars to be allocated and how effective this would be in aiding the recruitment and retention of nursing staff. The alternative is the payment of mileage allowances to staff using their own cars.

Is the Minister aware that it is precisely the difficulties of that system that are highlighted in the Acheson report? Is he aware that the report shows that London community nurses are at a disadvantage over transport compared with nurses in what are characteristically described in the report as country areas? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there should be a national levelling-up of provision, primarily in the interests of patients?

The hon. Gentleman must realise that this is part of the series of recommendations in the Acheson report. We are still considering the action that is necessary. We announced some time ago an additional sum of money for particular purposes. The hon. Gentleman must also realise that there is virtually no pressure from staff for the provision of Crown cars. Most staff prefer to use their own cars because of the contribution towards standing costs within the mileage allowances.

As the Minister has referred to the feelings of staff, does he appreciate that there is a widespread sense of injustice over the need for community nurses or health visitors to provide their own cars to do their job? If he is not willing to provide money for community nurses and health visitors to have cars provided by their employers, will he talk to his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Treasury about the injustice of taxing the mileage allowances?

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.