The blood transfusion service has taken contingency measures to minimise the effect of the difficulties experienced in recruiting clerk/drivers. The Welsh Office recently issued authority for special payments to be made for four new clerk/drivers. In the meantime, the situation is being closely monitored. Emergency surgery will not be affected.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that the Welsh Office has brought about this crisis in the national blood transfusion service in Wales by stubbornly refusing, for much longer than any of the comparable English authorities, to approve a variation order affecting the basic salary of clerks and other administrative staff in the service? Does he further agree that the time has come to see to it that Health Service administrative and clerical support staff are employed on conditions which provide for low turnover and reasonable wage rates so that job satisfaction can be combined with reasonable remuneration? Should we not do that rather than rely on high turnover and low wages, resulting in a constant attempt to recruit new staff to replace the experienced staff, on whom the service depends?
The hon. Gentleman rightly wants a steady and stable supply of staff to carry out this very responsible duty. However, I reject his charge that the Welsh Office is in some way responsible for the present state of affairs. The difficulty has been finding a proper grading policy for clerk/drivers and others in the Health Service. The staff side did not necessarily approve the proposals that were put to it in the Whitley council. It is now in the joint negotiating committee, and we hope to arrive at a conclusion that will end this problem once and for all.