At the beginning of this month, I laid my first annual report before the House setting out the achievements of the health service in 2011-12. The report showed that the NHS had continued to maintain or improve all the key performance standards while delivering unprecedented efficiency savings and a strong financial out-turn. That is a testament to the achievements of all NHS staff.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he confirm that the numbers of people waiting over 18 weeks, over 26 weeks and over 52 weeks for treatment are now at their lowest-ever levels—lower than when Labour was in office? Will he also confirm that that gives the lie to Labour’s claims that waiting lists are increasing?
Yes; I am grateful to my hon. Friend. When we came into office, something like 209,000 people had waited over 18 weeks. We have reduced that figure to 160,000. The number waiting over a year was nearly 19,000, and we have brought that down to below 5,000. I remind Opposition Members that in Wales the target for the number waiting more than 26 weeks has not been met—the figure stands at 6%, whereas in England it is 2.2%.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, because it allows me to confirm that the annual report states that the NHS has met all the cancer waiting time standards, and that we in England have provided for 12,500 patients to have access, through the cancer drugs fund, to cancer drugs that they would not otherwise have been able to have. It is a matter of regret that a similar cancer drugs fund is not available for exceptional treatments in Wales.
If I may, I will write to my hon. Friend in order to convey the precise figure. From my recollection, I believe that the bulk of the £5.8 billion efficiency savings—£2.8 billion—was in the acute sector. As most of the acute sector’s costs are pay costs, the pay freeze will have contributed a significant part of that.
Will the Secretary of State accept that some of those so-called efficiency savings are totally counter-productive? Despite Ministers’ claims to be saving money on agency staff, is not the truth that hospitals’ attempts to improve their efficiency have backfired, with jobs being cut and agency staff being hired at rates as high as £1,600 a day?
No, I will not accept any such thing. We are aiming to reduce agency staffing costs in the NHS under QIPP—the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention programme—by £300 million, and we have already made a reduction of more than £120 million. Since the election, in complete contrast to the situation beforehand, we have reduced the number of administrative staff in the NHS by 15,000, including a reduction of more than 6,000 managers. We have also increased the number of clinical staff by 4,000 since the election.