NHS Waiting Times

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 26th March 2014.

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Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan 11:30 am, 26th March 2014

What discussions he has had with Ministers of the Welsh Government on NHS waiting times in Wales.

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

As we have heard this morning, care standards in Wales are a matter of general concern. Long waiting times are just one aspect of that. As it is a devolved matter, it is for the Welsh Government to act.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

Nearly 10% of urgent cancer cases wait more than 62 days for treatment. The target has not been met since 2008. Some 57% of urgent ambulance calls arrive within eight minutes. The target has been met only once in 22 months. Some 33% of patients wait longer than eight weeks for diagnostic services. Does the Secretary of State agree that that is completely unacceptable? Will he take the matter up with the First Minister in Wales, with the support of the Secretary of State for Health, to ensure that my—

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

The point that my hon. Friend makes is right and it is a matter of concern. The Welsh Government should give serious consideration to the recommendation of Sir Bruce Keogh that there should be an inquiry into those matters. I hope that they will have one.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

My constituents and the constituents of the Secretary of State go to the hospital in Gobowen in Shropshire, the Countess of Chester hospital in England, Clatterbridge hospital in Wirral and the Christie in Manchester for cancer services, and the Royal Liverpool university hospital for heart surgery. Will he guarantee that the changes to the health service in England, which are very damaging, will not increase Welsh waiting times?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of those hospitals to Welsh patients. In England, the waiting time for treatment is 18 weeks. In Wales, it is 26 weeks. That is completely unacceptable. I hope that he agrees that there is no reason why his constituents or mine should be treated worse than patients from England.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

Does the Minister not think, as a basic matter of principle, that it is incredibly unfair that waiting times in so many areas are so much longer in Wales? All of us, as British MPs, have a duty to take this matter seriously, particularly Mr Hain, whose constituents are affected.

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

I agree entirely. Waiting times are a matter of huge concern. In most cases, the Welsh NHS is not meeting its own waiting time target of 26 weeks, which is considerably longer than the 18-week target in England.

Frankly, that is unacceptable. I hope that the Welsh Government are listening carefully to the points that are being expressed in this Question Time.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales)

We have heard some strange statements today. On cancer waiting times, the Secretary of State must recognise that, with 92% of patients in Wales starting treatment within the 62-day target, Wales performs better than three quarters of the NHS areas in England. What does he think the priority should be for English MPs: scrutinising the NHS in their own area or making ill-informed comments about the NHS in Wales?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

I agree entirely with my hon. Friends that they have a right to hold the Welsh NHS to account when Opposition Members are clearly incapable of making representations to their colleagues in the Assembly who have failed the health service so badly.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

Has my right hon. Friend seen the written answer that I received two weeks ago about cancer waiting times in Wales, which shows that the number of patients fleeing Wales to get treatment in England has increased dramatically in the last 10 years? Does he agree that that is a damning indictment of the administration of the NHS in Wales, and that Nye Bevan must be turning in his grave?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

I agree entirely. Anybody with a reasonable mind would agree that those figures are entirely unacceptable. Again, I suggest to Opposition Members from Wales that they should have a discreet word with their colleagues in the Assembly to ensure that Welsh patients get the standard of health care that they deserve and need.