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Nurses (Regrading)

Volume 156: debated on Wednesday 5 July 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the regrading of night nursing staff.

I have received a number of representations from hon. Members and from members of the nursing profession. The new grading structure was agreed with the professional bodies and trade unions representing nurses, and it means that nurses are now rewarded for what they actually do. Nurses' pay has reached its highest ever level in real terms and nurses in clinical practice have better career prospects than ever before.

Does the Minister recognise that, nevertheless, there is great resentment and a great loss of morale among nursing staff, particularly among those who are designated night duty, and that the grading appeals system does not deal with that? Does he accept that the management and unions agreed the new grading structure without consulting nurses and that they should now be consulted with a view to changing the grading to ensure that morale is restored?

If doctors' and nurses' representatives, speaking on behalf of their professions, are to be criticised according to the agreements that they reach, it will make the Government's position extremely difficult. Night staff are treated on exactly the same basis as day staff. All clinical nursing posts are graded according to job content. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. All clinical nursing posts are graded according to job content and the level of responsibility carried. Night staff must meet the same criteria as day staff to qualify for the higher grades available, and there is nothing unfair in that.

In addition, night staff also qualify for special duty payments, which add 30 per cent. to the hourly rate for hours worked between 8 pm and 6 am, and 60 per cent. For hours worked on Sundays or on public holidays. All of that is on a basis agreed by the staff representatives and the employers.