The latest figures for 1990–91 show the number of hip replacements up by 54 per cent. from 28,788 to 44,477. Latest information on all orthopaedic procedures from the hospital episode statistics is for 1989–90 and shows an increase of 18 per cent. from 554,000 to 656,000.
Does my right hon Friend agree that the figures confirm the tremendous advances that have been made in health care since the Conservatives came to power? Does he agree that that is evidenced by the recent successful survey of the national health service? Does my right hon. Friend agree also that the last Labour Government introduced such swingeing real cuts in the health service that, if they were returned to power, it would represent a real threat to those who require advanced orthopaedic treatment?
My hon. Friend is right. That is reflected in the fact that there are now about 100,000 more orthopaedic operations than there were in 1979. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) recently said to the House, rather chillingly, that if Labour were re-elected it would treat the national health service as it did last time. As Mr. Charles Webster, the national health service historian, recently told "Newsnight", that meant a splurge of spending at the beginning that was followed by the most desperate and dangerous cuts ever in the history of the national health service.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that an enormous number of people in Herefordshire are very grateful for the spectacular increase in knee and hip replacements that has taken place in that health authority's area during the past 10 years? It is an astonishingly successful programme. However, with a higher age structure, compared with the national average, demand continues to outstrip supply. In view of my right hon. Friend's waiting lists initiative, will he take special cognisance of that point and balance the distribution of that resource to reflect the age structure?
My hon. Friend knows that one of the changes that we are introducing is much fairer funding of health authorities throughout the land to reflect, among other things, the age structure. It is the duty of health authorities to meet the needs of local people by putting the money where it best serves those local needs.