The Government have consulted on proposals to give patients greater choice and control over their care and treatment. We have deferred publication of our response to take into account the results of the listening exercise.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and refer him to the King’s Fund paper, “Patient choice”, which was published in March 2010. Does he agree that people value being able to choose and that the exercise of choice raises standards and encourages NHS providers to design services around patients and their needs?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am certainly aware of the King’s Fund publication. The report was cited as a key source of evidence in the consultation document, “Liberating the NHS”. The Department of Health welcomes this significant contribution to the evidence base, which will inform how we implement the choice commitments set out in the White Paper, “Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS”.
When I was first elected, I regularly received letters from constituents who were concerned about how long they had to wait for treatment. During the years of the Labour Government, those letters went away, but they are coming back again. What I know from my constituents is that their main choice is not to have to wait. Is that a choice that this Government are going to offer them or will waiting times increase?
The choice this Government will offer them will make sure that they get the finest quality health care, where they can exercise their choice of which hospital to go to, which consultant to see, which GP to see, without having to wait unduly for that treatment.