HC Deb 22 November 1977 vol 939 cc1300-2
11. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the approximate total national waiting list and average waiting time for places for the elderly in hospital beds and hostels; what steps he will take to improve the shortage; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ennals

On 31st March 1977, over 5,000 patients were on the waiting list for hospital geriatric beds. Average waiting time is not known but of the 1,415 requiring urgent admission 625 had waited more than one month; 379 of the non-urgent cases had waited more than one year. No information is available centrally about waiting lists for old people's homes.

Health and local authorities are well aware of the need to improve services for the elderly as a main priority within resources available. "The Way Forward" contains suggestions for dealing with the practical problems involved in expanding hospital provision. Further guidance will be issued next spring taking account of the latest public expenditure proposals.

Mr. Allaun

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this month an 88-year-old Salford lady was dumped in a hospital casualty ward where senior doctors spent days trying to find her a bed in a hospital or geriatric ward? Is he further aware that many GPs spend hours daily pleading for places for such elderly people and that the answer to this problem is the provision of more money and the reversing of the public expenditure cuts?

Mr. Ennals

I agree with my hon. Friend. The fact that people are living so much longer creates these problems for local authorities, hospital authorities and GPs. This is one reason why the needs of the elderly are top priority within the resources available to the National Health Service and one reason also why we were able to make at least some additional resources available in the announcement I made to the House the week before last.

Mr. Boscawen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even in emergency cases elderly people are being refused entry to hospitals? Does he realise that there are serious cases in my part of the world involving elderly people who have not been admitted even though they have been in considerable pain?

Mr. Ennals

The fact that there are as few as 5,000 on the hospital waiting list shows that, while there are individual cases which cause hon. Members considerable concern, on the whole the hospital authorities are giving high priority to meeting needs, particularly of the frail elderly.

Mr. Pavitt

What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to the report on common waiting lists produced by the Health Services Board, in particular the submission by one member of the board, Mr. Bernard Dix? Does he intend to await a Royal Commission before making better liaison between provision for the elderly in Part III homes and warden-assisted geriatric wards?

Mr. Ennals

The proposals that have come from the Health Services Board about common waiting lists are now open for consultation. They have gone out to organisations and the period of consultation is nearly completed. When it is over, I shall come to the House and indicate the policies that we shall pursue. Dealing with the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, naturally, in the planning of resources available to health authorities we encourage maximum co-operation between social service and housing authorities.