The object of this Bill is to withdraw the offices of nurse and midwife from the offices to which the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, applies. The Act of 1926 established the Local Appointments Commission which has the duty of selecting and recommending candidates for appointment to certain posts under local authorities. These posts are in three groups, the first of which comprises all chief executive officers, the second, all professional and technical officers except teachers, and the third any other position to which the Act is applied by the appropriate Minister.
Nurses and midwives were regarded as coming within the second group and consequently appointments to vacancies have, from the passing of the Act, been made in accordance with its provisions. The commission since it was set up has made upwards of 1,700 recommendations of candidates for posts of nurses and midwives. Last year there were 138 such recommendations or approximately three-fifths of all the recommendations made by the commissioners in that year. Some difficulty has been experienced in recent years in securing candidates for posts in connection with hospitals for infectious diseases. The greater demand at present for nurses will not render the position any easier. It will facilitate local authorities in obtaining candidates if they are able to offer immediate employment in permanent posts. The Department has been advised that in training centres for fever nursing it would be easier to recruit the permanent nursing staff from nurses with general medical and surgical training who complete their fever training in the centre than by reference to the commissioners.
The higher nursing posts such as hospital matron for which special qualifications are necessary can still be brought within the Act by declaration of the Minister. It should be open to the Minister to review such declarations from time to time and if necessary revoke them. Section 4 of the Bill will give him the necessary power.
There are two other minor matters dealt with in the Bill. Section 5 of the Act of 1926 fixed six months as the maximum period for which a person temporarily holding a post to which the Act applies could retain office. It occasionally happens for one reason or another that a permanent appointment cannot be made within that period. Sometimes there is delay in applying to the commissioners or difficulty in getting a suitable candidate, and in such cases temporary appointments have to be continued. Apart from the provision in Section 5 of the Act of 1926 the Minister has sufficient power to ensure that the filling of permanent posts is not prolonged unduly, and it is not anticipated that in practice the amendment proposed in Section 5 of this Bill will lead to the undue retention of temporary officers.
Section 6 of the Bill gives two months instead of one month within which the certificate of expenses must be given by the commissioners. The staff of the Civil Service Commission is also partly engaged on the work of the Local Appointments Commissioners and expenses and receipts have to be apportioned between the two bodies. It is proposed to bring the Bill into operation as soon after its passing as the commissioners are able to dispose of existing statutory requests. Under Section 2 the Minister will appoint a day for the purpose.