Bypass Operations

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1988.

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Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover 12:00 am, 13th December 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many coronary bypass operations have been performed each year for the last 10 available years.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Figures on the number of cardiac surgery operations are collected annually by the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons. According to its returns, the number of coronary artery bypass grafts carried out in the United Kingdom in 1977 was 2,881, and in 1985, the latest year for which figures are available, it was 11,800. That is a rise of 310 per cent. over the period.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

Is my hon. and learned Friend in a position to confirm that part of the increase has come about because money is available from the waiting-list fund? Is he aware that in one hospital in America—Houston medical centre—more than 3,000 operations are done each year by Dr. Denton Cooley who achieves greater utilisation of the operating theatres by having no trade unionists working in them?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

We have been giving priority to coronary bypass grafts for some years, and it is because of that that the numbers have increased so much. It is correct to say—I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to this—that about 500 additional such operations have been made possible by the waiting-list fund.

As for the utilisation of operating theatres, we can certainly learn from the experience of others; there is a pertinent Public Accounts Committee report on that point.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

Before the Minister gets carried away with self-congratulations, will he join me in congratulating Councillor Eddie Scott of Calderdale, who has taken a principled stand by not going private in spite of a waiting list of 18 months for a bypass operation? Will the Minister give Councillor Scott and people like him some hope of relief from pain—and, in some cases, some hope of life—by increasing still further the money spent on this vital operation, which, the House realises, was nothing like as advanced in 1977 as it was in 1987?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

I am sorry that the hon. Lady thought that I was congratulating myself. I was asked for the figures and gave them. I accept what she said in two respects. First, we need to carry out more of these procedures and are pressing regions to do that. Secondly, I am sad to say that there are districts in this country in which too many patients are made to wait more than a year for treatment. That is not acceptable, and I assure the hon. Lady that we are applying pressure especially to those districts to ensure that waiting lists are brought down. With major procedures such as this people should have to wait the shortest possible time; we shall work to that effect.

I do not know about the particular case that the hon. Lady mentioned, but if she writes to me about it I shall be happy to consider it.