HC Deb 24 May 1972 vol 837 cc1407-8
4. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many private beds in National Health Service hospitals are vacant; and what is the waiting list for National Health Service beds at the latest available date.

Mr. Monro

Beds are not reserved for private patients in National Health Service hospitals, and the average number of such patients at any one time is about 170. The total number of persons on all hospital waiting lists at 31st March, 1971 was 51,675.

Mr. Dempsey

Will some of the beds which are reserved for private use be made available to urgent cases on the waiting list for National Health Service beds? Will the Minister give an undertaking that urgent medical attention will be given to these patients, if necessary by the use of private beds?

Mr. Monro

I assure the hon. Gentleman, as I said in my original reply, that beds are not reserved for private patients. The doctors, of course, give priority to urgent cases on the waiting list.

Mr. Carmichael

The Minister will be aware that the figure of 51.000 on the waiting list is disturbing. Will he amplify his answer by telling us the average length of time for which people are on the waiting list for particular types of treatment?

Mr. Monro

All hon. Members are glad to see the hon. Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) back in the House. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I could not without notice give a break-down on the length of time people are on waiting lists, but there is an improving trend in the figures—which are still high—since they have dropped from 55,000 in 1969 to 51,000 last year. The Government are well aware of the importance of the provision of a larger number of beds, and this is why the hospital expenditure programme has increased by £28 million for 1973–74 as compared with the figure for 1969–70.