I am interested in those figures. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some hospital boards of management in Scotland have had to postpone recruitment of student nurses because of financial limitations? In view of the introduction of a 40-hour week for nurses and the clamant need for trained nursing staff, is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a danger of reduction of standards of patient care in hospitals in Scotland? Would he undertake to see that sufficient funds are made available to regional hospital boards to try to maintain or even to improve the standards of patient care?
It is for the board of management to determine how the funds which it is allocated can best be spent. But I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said, and if he has a particular case in mind I will look at that urgently.
Would my hon. Friend see that facilities in nurses' homes are continually being improved by things like extra telephones for nurses, which at present are usually provided by the friends of the hospital rather than the hospital board?
I thank my hon. Friend for that suggestion. It is certainly something that regional boards and boards of management are examining carefully. The nurses' homes that I have visited in the past six months have impressed me with the conditions available.
Whatever the recruitment figures might be, is there not considerable wastage caused by trained nurses leaving the profession, due in large measure to the gross exploitation of these young women and the shocking inadequacy of their pay? Will the hon. Gentleman undertake that the current pay claim by nurses is expedited by the Government and that the Government will take steps to ensure that they do not impose an arbitrary 8 per cent. annual increase on the nurses?
I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's approach to this matter. I hope he will realise that for student nurses, to which the Question refers, the wastage has been falling in recent years, and this is a very good trend. The wage claim is now before the Whitley Council and it will come to the Government in due course.