Health authorities are already free to use the title of matron for the senior nurse manager in a hospital, and some do so. One of the key aims of the Government's new proposals is to give hospitals much more control over the running of their own affairs, and decisions on the roles and titles of senior nursing staff will continue to be made locally.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is widespread disappointment that the traditional role of matron does not feature more widely in the current review of the Health Service? Is he further aware that the role of matron was unique in that she could deal with consultants and doctors, understood nurses and patients well, yet at the same time as was able to control very carefully items such as bed linen and bandages and had a good overall view of the whole system? Bearing in mind that people rather than structures make organisations run smoothly will he reconsider reinstituting the traditional role of matron in our hospitals?
I suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that it does not matter a row of beans who played the part of the matron in a film. Many people think that almost the biggest mistake ever made in the National Health Service was to get rid of the matron. If we had that particular figurehead, there is little doubt that she would be able to cope with the flood of thefts that is endemic in the NHS, that she would make the wards cleaner—many of them badly need to be made cleaner—and that she would manage the hospital with great efficiency, as she always used to do. Does my hon. and learned Friend acknowledge that apart from the fact that hospitals can bring back matrons, they ought to be positively encouraged to bring them back?
As I understand the argument in 1966, the feeling was that there were so many different sizes of hospital that one needed a more sophisticated profile for senior nurse managers to reflect the different sizes of units that were being managed. It is important that senior nursing offices should be invested with all the powers that are required to do the various jobs to which my hon. Friend refers. If a hospital chooses to call that senior nursing manager a matron, so he it. We have no objection.