Almost 7·5 million in-patient cases were treated in 1989–90 compared with just over 6 million in 1979. That is a rise of almost 25 per cent.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer because it nails the nonsensical assertion from some Opposition Members, and from my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), about cuts in the health service. It shows that there has been a dramatic increase in the health service provided to the people of the United Kingdom. Will my hon. Friend also nail that lie, for the benefit of my constituents, by telling me the figures for Scunthorpe health authority?
My hon. Friend is exactly right. The figures demonstrate that the national health service is growing each year that the Government are in power. I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the number of patients treated in his constituency has risen at a compound rate of 5 per cent. per annum.
Does the Minister accept that although there has been an increase in the number of in-patients treated, there may have been an even greater demand? Are those in need of in-patient treatment receiving the treatment that they need or are they being turfed out of hospitals before they are ready and being directed towards private health care provision in a way which they would not have been in 1979?
In 1979, the in-patient waiting lists was 5 per cent. higher than it is now. It simply is not true to say that the shorter time in a hospital bed is a reflection of the fact that peope are being pushed out into the community. It is a reflection of the refinement of medical practice and of less traumatic medicine which means higher-quality patient care.
Is not it a fact that the improvement in medical techniques to which my hon. Friend referred means that many treatments that involved in-patient care in 1979 can now be achieved through out-patient care? Are not the out-patient figures even more relevant to the arguments on this point and on the whole question of hospital beds?
My hon. Friend is precisely right. There is also an interim category of day cases—people who would previously have had to stay in hospital, in many cases for several days, and in some cases for several weeks. They are now treated as day cases. The number of day cases treated by the national health service has more than doubled since 1979.