HC Deb 23 January 1974 vol 867 cc1638-9
11. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take to ensure a reduction in the waiting time for orthopaedic consultations in the East Fife Hospital Board of Management Hospitals, following the board's decision to provide facilities for private practice by one of its part-time orthopaedic consultants.

Mr. Monro

The provision of facilities for private practice in Scottish hospitals requires my right hon. Friend's authorisation. I understand that such an application in respect of private orthopaedic consultation facilities has been made by the board of management for East Fife hospitals, but the South-Eastern Regional Hospital Board has not yet considered it. All aspects of this matter, including the possible effect on waiting times for orthopaedic consultations, will be carefully considered before my right hon. Friend takes a decision.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the Minister aware—I am sure he must be, in view of all the correspondence on this matter and his replies to previous Questions—of the frustration, misery and suffering caused to orthopaedic patients in my constituency? If and when he receives the board's decision to provide such facilities for private practice, in view of the possible queue-jumping that will follow that decision, will he undertake not to approve this request while such unsatisfactory conditions exist for National Health Service patients?

Mr. Monro

I appreciate that the waiting list in Fife is longer than I should like, but I must not in any way prejudge a decision before the papers reach me.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is the Minister aware of the great anger there will be in Fife if this private facility is provided, since it will clearly result in queue jumping? We very much object to a system under which the richer one is and the more fees one can afford to pay, the higher up the queue one goes. This is an obscenity.

Mr. Monro

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman takes that view because the Expenditure Committee of the House concluded that private practice operates to the overall benefit of the National Health Service. I hope he will also remember that private practice in hospitals comes within the provisions of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968 Act as it applies to Scotland. Under this Act only four hospitals have had approval, three of which were approved by the Labour Government.

Dr. Miller

Is it not about time that we got rid completely of this outmoded and archaic system of part-time consultancy private practice?

Mr. Monro

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's argument. He should remember that it was an all-party Expenditure Committee of this House that considered the matter and decided otherwise.