The maximum pay for a staff nurse with post-basic training in paediatric intensive care in inner London is now £12,538, an increase of over £3,000, or more than 31 per cent., above the previous maximum annual salary.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the fact that he recognises the problems of recruiting specialist skilled nurses in London is very welcome, as are the steps that he has taken? Is he further aware that the problem is one of recruitment, not only in inner London, but in outer London, and that the sooner we can achieve regional pay negotiations the better?
My hon. Friend will remember that the Government sought in their advice to the review bodies to move a little further on the question of geographical pay, but the review bodies did not see fit to go beyond the London area. Under the recommendations, the outer London area carries, in addition to London weighting, a 5 per cent. supplement.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that one of the problems for nurses in inner London is the high cost of housing? In determining their pay award, and in considering the sale of nurses' homes, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that in future nurses can live reasonably near the hospitals at which they work?
There is no doubt that in inner London housing is an important factor in the employment of nurses. Last year the Government encouraged the Nationwide building society and other organisations to get together in some areas to assist in shared ownership. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that over the past two years the total rental increase for nurses' accommodation has been 4 per cent. I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's point about nurses' accommodation. That is an important feature of the debate.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of suggestions for differential payments for nurses in paediatric branches and for sisters in other branches of the NHS, although they are thought to be doing equal work? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that nurses and sisters at all levels should be given equal pay for equal work under the 1988 award?
Of course nurses must be paid equal pay for equal work. The idea behind the review system was to give additional rewards to those with additional skills and responsibilities, especially those relating to patient care. There were clear shortages in those skills, and that is what the review regrading system is geared to address.