When Labour came to power in 1997, there were 1.3 million people on a waiting list—the highest number since the NHS was created in 1948. The Labour Government used targeted and sufficient funding to bring all those figures down, to the point where A&E waiting times were down to four hours and waiting lists were down to 18 weeks. It is regrettable that the Government now want to abolish the A&E waiting time target. Is that simply to spare Ministers’ blushes? Since last October, 320,034 people waited more than four hours at A&E, whereas in 2010 the figure was just 41,231.
My constituents have to wait three weeks to see a GP, and many cannot find an NHS dentist at all. In relation to targets, one of the things that helped, of course, was treating cancer patients. In my constituency, 60% of patients received treatment within 62 days of their GP referral, but 40% did not get the treatment they wanted in time.
One of the main problems is the abolition of nursing bursaries, which has led to difficulties recruiting and training nurses. As we have heard, there are 100,000-odd nursing vacancies still to be filled. In relation to the doctors contract, the abolition of the golden pension meant that many doctors took retirement at age 60, which led to an acute shortage. I therefore ask the Government please to return the 6,000 GP contracts that they abolished, so that my constituents can see a GP when they need to, rather than having to wait three weeks.
Many hon. Members have spoken today about social care provision, but there is one further aspect that I would like Ministers to consider. Many care workers provide home visits of 30 or 45 minutes throughout the day. Their paid work might be for only four hours in total, but often they spend six or seven hours travelling between visits. They have to pay for their transport and are on low incomes, so often they travel by public transport. They might do only four hours of paid work each day, but they will have spent six hours travelling. I know that Ministers are looking into the whole issue of financing care for elderly and vulnerable people, but this is an immediate problem that needs to be resolved. I hope that the Minister, when he responds, will set out what he plans to do about that.
My hon. Friend Preet Kaur Gill referred to the provision of mental health facilities for young people. Young people in my constituency are having to wait around 10 weeks to be seen by child and adolescent mental health services, which help young people in schools who have mental health and psychological issues. The services are much needed but very underfunded. This is important, because at the moment we are hearing not just about loneliness, but about serious issues such as bullying, and the fact that many young people are very distressed, and some are taking their own lives. Proper funding for the provision of mental health services for young people is really important.
Finally, may we please have more provision within the funding for dentists? It really is appalling that across the country, but especially in the north, it takes people months to find an NHS dentist.