HC Deb 23 July 1973 vol 860 cc1141-2
14. Mr. Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what progress has been made during the past 12 months in shortening waiting lists of patients in Wales needing hospital treatment; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Between 31st March 1972 and 31st March 1973-the latest date for which figures are available-the number of people waiting for hospital treatment in Wales increased by 18 per cent. for in-patients and decreased by 9 per cent. for out-patients. I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services on 9th July regarding the action we are taking to reduce waiting times for in-patient treatment.

Mr. Gower

Does not that underline the fact that the Welsh Hospital Board may have been rather hasty in closing some of the smaller hospitals, particularly as the smaller hospitals have shown themselves able to obtain the part-time services of nurses who are not prepared to work at long distances from their homes?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I take my hon. Friend's point about part-time nursing. That is certainly a point. On the other hand, I could not agree with him that the Welsh Hospital Board was wrong in closing these hospitals down. These decisions were taken only after considerable thought. Although they may have been unpopular in my hon. Friend's constituency, I fear that they had to be.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does not the Minister feel that his right hon. and learned Friend has been seriously remiss in not making a public statement and authorising a full inquiry into the death of Mrs. Alice Higgs of Newport, following the failure to obtain a cardiac operation at the University Hospital, Cardiff? Is there any truth in the Press report that the Secretary of State visited the hospital last Friday and that this serious matter was not discussed? Is not the Secretary of State aware that he has full responsibility for health matters in Wales, or has he not been told?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

What the hon. Gentleman says is unreasonable. My right hon. and learned Friend is aware of the circumstances and he has received a preliminary report, which he is examining with a view to considering what further action should be taken.