Nurses (Pay)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 15th December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made in the negotiations for improved salary scales for nurses; and whether the increases proposed will be required to come within the norms of the prices and incomes policy.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further statement on the current claim for increased salaries for the nursing profession and the negotiations arising there-from.

Photo of Dr Shirley Summerskill Dr Shirley Summerskill , Halifax

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now make a further statement on measures to be taken to improve the pay structure of the nursing profession.

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

We expect to receive the final part of this important claim this week, and the two sides of the Whitley Council have planned a series of joint negotiations to start after Christmas Urgent consideration is being given to the application of the relevant aspects of the new White Paper on incomes policy which has just been published.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

That is welcome as far as it goes, but does my hon. Friend realise that there would be national unanimity on the desirability of giving to the nurses and ancillary service staff in our hospitals a substantial increase with some element of retrospection in it? Can he say whether, or when, he will be able to make a definite announcement on the matter?

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I cannot at this stage say when a definite announcement will be made. As hon. Members know, the last award is due to run until the end of March next year. My Department is conscious of the great feeling of many people in the community about the nurses' case. As a measure of that, I can tell the House that we have received over 126,000 signed copies of the printed letter issued by the Royal College of Nursing and about 2,000 other letters on the subject.

Photo of Dr Shirley Summerskill Dr Shirley Summerskill , Halifax

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the most satisfactory aspect of the Government's incomes policy is that it is committed to help the low-paid, for these are people who are poorly organised and who do not command economic power? The nursing profession is an outstanding example of this section of the community.

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I agree with what my hon. Friend has said about the Government's incomes policy White Paper, and I take note of the point which she makes about the nursing profession in this regard.

Photo of Mr Frederic Harris Mr Frederic Harris , Croydon North West

Will the Government give as much sympathy as possible to this, case, since a large number of nurses are leaving this country to go abroad as well, thus adding to the problems of our hospitals at present?

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

We shall certainly give as much consideration as we can to this case—a great deal more, I may say, than hon. Members opposite gave it some years ago when the nurses were subjected to a 2½ per cent, wage increase.

As regards the number of nurses going abroad, although this may give rise to some concern, I should emphasise, as I did earlier today, that the number of nurses employed in the National Health Service has been going up every year.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm what I understood him to say in answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), that he does regard the nurses as lower-paid workers within the meaning of that term in the Government's most recent White Paper on prices and incomes?

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I think that the hon. Gentleman slightly misunderstood what I said. I said that I took note of the position of nurses in regard to lower-paid workers, and I agreed with my hon. Friend that the part of the White Paper which dealt with the problems faced by lower-paid workers was very important.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

Will the Minister bear in mind that the nurses and the country feel strongly not only about the present level of salaries but also about the career structure, and will he give an absolute assurance that the Government will take into account that nurses are not prepared to try to enforce their claims by strike action?

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

We all respect the nurses because they have said that they are not prepared in any circumstances to go to strike action. The problem of the career structure is very real. There has been a considerable improvement in recent years, with the introduction of the Salmon career structure. Obviously, this is one of the points which must be taken into consideration in the negotiations ahead.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will tabulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the average weekly wage for nursing sisters and nursing staff, including and excluding extras provided by the hospital services, for each of the last 10 years; and if he will express these figures as a percentage of the average industrial wage over the same period.

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT tables comparing the average weekly salary of a staff nurse and ward sister in a general and a psychiatric hospital respectively with the average earnings of manual workers, male and female, in the manufacturing and certain other industries. The figures are not strictly comparable because information is not available about the average amounts earned by nurses by way of extra payments. As present these take the form of special duty payments for night and week-end duty, which account for about 4·8 per cent, of the salary bill for hospital nurses and, in psychiatric hospitals, payments for overtime where appropriate.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

In spite of the Report of the Prices and Incomes Board, is it not a fact that young people contemplating entering the nursing profession find that, compared with other opportunities, the career structure and the remuneration are far less attractive? Is there not an urgent need to adjust this imbalance?

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

As I said in answer to an earlier Question, we are very conscious of the urgent need to look into the nurses' recent pay claim. I cannot add to what I said earlier.

Photo of Mr Leslie Spriggs Mr Leslie Spriggs , St Helens

Is my hon. Friend aware that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are very concerned at the very low pay which members of the nursing profession are receiving and that the House demands some action to enable them to enjoy the standards which they deserve?

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I am very conscious of the strong feeling among not only hon. Members on both sides of the House but

TABLE 1—GENERAL HOSPITAL
DateStaff Nurse Salary RangeAverageWard Sister Salary RangeAverageEarnings of Male Worker
£s.£s£s.£s.£s.£s.£s.
1st March, 1959912–12010161119–1571313
1st October, 19591311
1st October, 19601411
1st December, 1960101–12121161212–162147
1st October, 1961157
1st April, 19621016–13101231310–176158
1st October, 19621517
1st July, 19631110–1481219157–2021715
1st October, 19631615
1st July, 19641117–14171371516–2015186
1st October, 1964182
1st July, 1965135–1618152171–232202
1st October, 19651912
1st October, 1966206
1st October, 19671315–171215141715–2412018218
1st October, 1968230
1st January, 1969151–18181701812–2542118
1st April, 19692318
DateStaff Nurse PercentageWard Sister PercentageAverage Earnings of Female WorkerStaff Nurse PercentageWard Sister Percentage
?s.
1st March, 1959
1st October, 195979·7100·771153·1193·6
1st October, 196074·293·878145·9184·4
1st December, 196077·698·6152·7193·9
1st October, 196173·693·4715145·8185·1
1st April, 196279·1100·3156·7198·7
1st October, 196276·697·181150·9191·3
1st July, 196381·7111·9160·8220·4
1st October, 196377·3105·988154·1211·3
1st July, 196479·7109·2158·9217·8
1st October, 196473·7101·1819149·1204·4
1st July, 196583·4111·0168·7224·5
1st October, 196577·0102·5912157·2209·3
1st October, 196674·399·0101150·2200·0
1st October, 196773·397·61011148·8198·1
1st October, 196868·290·8116138·9184·9
1st January, 196973·995·2150·4193·8
1st April, 196971·191·61115144·6186·3
Average76·199·9152·1199·8

the public on this issue. This is one of the factors which we shall take into account when resolving the recent pay claim.

Following are the figures:

TABLE 2—PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL
DateStaff Nurse Salary RangeAverageWard Sister Salary RangeAverageEarnings of Male Worker
£s.£s.£s.£s.£s.£s.£s.
1st March, 19591011–121911151219–1661413
1st October, 19591311
1st October, 19601411
1st December, 1960112–13121271312–172157
1st October, 1961157
1st April, 19621118–14121351412–1881610
1st October, 19621517
1st July, 1963129–1571318166–202184
1st August, 19631615
1st July, 19641217–15161471616–20151816
1st October, 1964182
1st July, 1965144–1716160180–2322016
1st October, 19651912
1st October, 1966206
1st October, 19671414–181016121814–240217218
1st October, 1968230
1st January, 19691619–201618182010–2722316
1st April, 19692318
DateStaff Nurse PercentageWard Sister PercentageEarnings of Female WorkerStaff Nurse PercentageWard Sister Percentage
£s.
1st March, 1959
1st October, 195986·7108·171166·6207·8
1st October, 196080·7100·678158·7197·9
1st December, 196084·8105·4166·8207·4
1st October, 196180·4100715159·3198
1st April, 196286·3107·4170·9212·9
1st October, 196283·5104·181164·5204·9
1st July, 196387·6114·8172·6226
1st October, 196382·9108·688165·4216·6
1st July, 196485·6112·2170·8223·8
1st October, 196479·2103·8819160·3210
1st July, 196588·3114·9178·7232·4
1st October, 196581·6106·1912166·6216·6
1st October, 196678·8102·4101159·2206·9
1st October, 196777·599·71011157·3202·2
1st October, 196872·192·8116146·9188·9
1st January, 196982·1103·4167·2210·6
1st April, 19697999·51115160·8202·5
Average82·1104·9164·2209·7