asked the Minister of Health whether a geriatric consultant has yet been appointed to St. George's Hospital, Hornchurch; how many members of the nursing staff of this hospital have been specially trained in geriatric nursing; what was the corresponding number a year ago; and how many chronic and aged patients are accommodated in this hospital.
Yes, Sir; the present number of nurses trained in geriatric nursing is 38 full-time and 15 part-time, compared with 28 and 19 on 31st March last; on 31st January last the number of chronic and aged patients was 329.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that everybody will be very glad to hear his reply to the first part of the Question? Can he say whether this appointment is to the group as a whole or to this particular hospital only? If it is to the former, roughly how much of his time will this consultant be expected to devote to the hospital, where there have been so many difficulties, as the hon. Gentleman knows. Secondly, what is the adequate, or the ideal, number of specially trained nurses to cope with this number of aged patients?
With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, this is the number of trained and part-time staff employed at St. George's Hospital itself and not in the group as a whole. I cannot answer the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question without notice. But, of course, although the nursing staff have increased, more are wanted.
The hon. Gentleman misunderstood my supplementary question. I asked about the first part of his original Answer—"Yes, sir"—which I took be about the appointment of the geriatric consultant. Is this appointment to the group as a whole or to the hospital only?
I cannot answer that at the moment. The consultant is expected to join on 16th March. Perhaps I can write to the hon. Gentleman and clear up that point. This appointment has been needed at the hospital for a long time. I am very glad, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is, that a geriatrician has now been appointed.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, from personal observation, I can state that the staff at St. George's Hospital is a devoted staff? Is he further aware that the manner of the series of questions over the last 18 months, addressed by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), has not aided recruitment? Is my hon. Friend further aware that the hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to visit the hospital, despite five invitations to do so?*
Mr. Speaker, in view of the personal attack made upon me by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr.
*[See OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1964, col.432.]
Lagden), may I ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary whether he is aware that the implication of the last supplementary question is that Question Time might as well be closed down if every time an hon. Member asks an awkward question about an abuse or complaint affecting his constituents he is to be told, "This will make recruiting more difficult", or something like that.
Further, is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that I have not received any invitation to visit this hospital and that, in any case, I do not believe that a layman visiting a hospital at a prearranged time, with everything laid on for that visit, would necessarily know everything that was going on in the hospital?
In fairness to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden), I should point out that the hospital is in his constituency. I understand that he visits it frequently and is aware of the conditions there. He knows, I know, and the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) knows, that in the past the conditions at the hospital have been difficult, not because of the quality of the staff but because of the layout of the hospital.
I must say that continuing adverse publicity makes it extremely difficult to recruit staff locally for a hospital of this kind. It is a very pleasant hospital in many ways, and I hope that now that recruiting has taken an upward turn and the services of the geriatrician have been secured we shall see great improvements.