Waiting Lists

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Cecil Franks Mr Cecil Franks , Barrow and Furness 12:00 am, 18th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many in-patients are waiting for longer than a year for treatment; and what was the corresponding figure for 1979.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

At March 1979 the number of in-patients waiting over one year was 185,195. Provisional figures show that by December 1991 the number had fallen to 108,982, a reduction of 41 per cent.

Photo of Mr Cecil Franks Mr Cecil Franks , Barrow and Furness

Those figures are welcome, as is the 60 per cent. reduction in the northern region of those having to wait more than two years. Is not the essential difference between Government policies and those of the Opposition that the Government's prime concern lies with patients' interests, while Opposition Members' prime concern is to keep happy the unions that pay and sponsor them?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I fear that on health, as on other issues, that is all too true. I think that the House will unite in applauding the fall in long waits. Our congratulations should go out from the House to the national health service for what it is achieving.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal , Staffordshire Mid

The policies of the Secretary of State have meant that patients who have waited too long find the lists abolished, as happened to the varicose veins list at Whipps Cross hospital. As South East Staffordshire health authority has drawn attention to the longest waiters—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I did not hear the intervention, but hon. Members should keep quiet.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal , Staffordshire Mid

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As South East Staffordshire health authority has said, attention to the longest waiters does not equate to attention to clinical priorities. Is the Secretary of State more concerned with patients on waiting lists or with headlines on waiting lists?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

Like the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), the hon. Lady leads for the Labour party in a weak suit. It is not just long waits that are falling. As she probably knows, half of all patients are treated as emergency cases, half come from waiting lists. When the Labour party was in power, half of the remaining half—the other 25 per cent.—were admitted in, on average, eight weeks. We have reduced that period to five weeks, which means that millions of patients now wait for shorter periods than they did under a Labour Government.

We are told by The Observer that the hon. Member for Livingston is now running as part of a comic team with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)—a wonderful pantomime horse—in seeking the job of the Leader of the Opposition. If the hon. Member for Livingston ever got into power, no doubt we would return to the longer waits that we experienced under the Labour Government.