Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden)(Con):
Will the Minister confirm that the huge reliance on agency staff at immense cost is proof that ultimately one cannot buck the market? Attempts to staff our hospitals with nurses with different pay and conditions mean that we cannot balance demand and supply domestically. We have to import 15,000 nurses a year because we are losing 8,000 British-trained nurses overseas, and nearly one third of nurses with British nurse training go elsewhere. Ultimately, to achieve a balanced domestic supply we must pay a proper rate for our nurses rather than wasting money in this way.
I agree strongly that we need to pay nurses more and give them a better rate of pay. That is precisely what we are doing with Agenda for Change, which has been negotiated with nurses and the Royal College of Nursing in particular. It gives us an opportunity to make significant progress in this area – something that was quite invisible when the right hon. Gentleman’s party was in charge of the national health service.