The north-east Thames regional health authority will receive £2·07 million from the first year's allocation of the fund. That will enable hospitals in the region to treat an additional 7,000 waiting list cases through at least 25 separate projects.
Is the Minister aware that because of local and staff anxiety about the future of St. Margaret's hospital in Epping, the money that is being made available is much appreciated? Does he agree that that will result in a considerable cut in waiting time for operations, notably in oral surgery and ear, nose and throat cases?
Yes, the £92,000 that is being made available for west Essex will finance three projects and will enable over 1,000 cases to be treated. In addition, the district is planning improvements within its existing resources, including a 41 per cent. reduction in the children's ear, nose and throat waiting list by September of this year. That is a considerable prospect of progress.
The people of Havering will welcome my hon. Friend's statement because they too will benefit within that region. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is unacceptable for people to have to wait up to two years for orthopaedic operations, as some must do? Will he join me in hoping that there will be a substantial reduction in the waiting list as a result of the announcement?
Indeed, I would expect that reduction. Barking, Havering and Brentwood are receiving over £450,000 from the allocation which will finance six projects, enabling the treatment of more than 2,000 extra in-patient cases in orthopaedics and ENT. That is in addition to improvements in existing resources, including the treatment of up to 1,600 additional cases in orthopaedics and general surgery.