Question Time — Scottish Executive — Health and Well-being – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th June 2007.
To ask the Scottish Executive how it plans to reduce hospital waiting times across Scotland. (S3O-100)
We will work closely with national health service boards to ensure that the NHS provides responsive, efficient services that put patients first and ensure that they are treated as quickly as possible. We will announce our plans for the NHS in Scotland, including new waiting times targets, later this year.
As far as cutting cancer waiting times is concerned, I understand that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing has requested weekly progress reports from health boards. Will she confirm that she will publish those reports as she receives them?
The figures are published quarterly. Last week, I said that I was dissatisfied with progress on meeting cancer waiting times targets. Indeed, the target is 18 months overdue in being met and, across health boards, is 10 per cent short of being fulfilled. That is not good enough, either for cancer patients or for their families. Last week, I said that I would carefully monitor progress on a week-to-week basis. I expect the target to be met by the end of the year; indeed, I am confident that it can be met by then. I also announced additional support for two boards, because past experience shows that where such support has been provided, considerable progress has been made.
Will the cabinet secretary confirm that she will increase the use of independent hospitals and the private sector to reduce waiting times and improve the health of patients in Scotland?
I welcome Mary Scanlon back to the post of Tory health spokesperson. As I said many times when we were in opposition, the SNP's first priority in government will be to expand NHS capacity, because that is in the interests not only of patients but of taxpayers. Clearly, the private sector is being utilised at the moment, but my priority is to ensure that the NHS delivers for patients—and, indeed, delivers shorter waiting times for them.