§ 30. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Minister of Health if he will state approximately the number waiting for adenoid and tonsil operations in England and Wales, the average waiting time before admission to hospital for these operations and the average waiting time last year.
§ Mr. Allaun
That Answer is a bit disappointing. Does not the Minister know that in some areas children are having to wait up to three years for this operation unless their parents can pay privately, in which case it is done immediately? In this period, their ear drums can be permanently damaged through infection. What emergency steps does the Minister intend to take in this matter?
§ Miss Pitt
Emergency cases in which there is real urgency are dealt with at once, but there may be particular reasons for delay in other cases. Sometimes a patient's name is put on the waiting list so that he can be put under observation. It does not necessarily end in an operation. Sometimes operations are deferred because of the time of year—for instance, during the poliomyelitis season.
§ Mr. Allaun
There is a tremendously long delay in many cases even in getting a consultation so that it can be ascertained whether an operation is needed. As I say, during this period, a child's ear drums may be permanently damaged.
Is not the sort of answer which we have had this afternoon really appalling? Must children go on suffering and, perhaps, suffer permanent damage before the Minister considers putting forward an emergency scheme to deal with them? It is not merely one isolated person who needs emergency attention. Many people are having to wait for emergency attention. Will the hon. Lady consider this problem on a national scale and do something about it?
§ Miss Pitt
There have been increases in ear, nose and throat sessions in many hospitals. It is extraordinarily difficult to answer sweeping assertions that everything is wrong. Everything is not wrong. A great deal which is good is being done. My right hon. Friend is issuing guidance to hospital authorities to ensure that waiting lists are reviewed. 925 Meantime, I repeat that any case of emergency in which an immediate operation is necessitated is given priority.
§ Mr. Eden
Should it not be emphasised that the presence of many names on waiting lists is due to the fact that people do not wish to take up the opportunity given to them to have an operation at the time that they are offered one by the hospital authorities since, for some reason or other, it is inconvenient for them to have it at the time offered? Therefore, these waiting lists do not give a wholly factual or true picture of the situation.