HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1052-3
13. Mr. Ancram

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the numbers of patients awaiting major surgical operations in Scotland at the present time; and what they were six months before.

Mr. John MacKay

This information could be ascertained only by a special inquiry of health boards. During the current industrial disruption it would not be fair to add to the work load of the boards in this way.

Mr. Ancram

Nevertheless, will my hon. Friend confirm that, since the Government came to office, waiting lists for serious surgical operations have reduced considerably as a result of the 6 per cent. increase in real terms in expenditure in the National Health Service? Does he agree that the current industrial dispute is severly endangering the well-being of the patients who need these operations, and that we cannot stand for that?

Mr. MacKay

My hon. Friend is right. Since the Government came to power in 1979, waiting lists in the Health Service in Scotland have been reduced. Part of the reason for that reduction is that we have considerably increased the financing of the National Health Service in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend is also right when he says that the dispute, as the Labour Government found in 1978–79, will result in waiting lists increasing and patients having to wait for operations which, frankly, they could have had but for the dispute.

Mr Home Robertson

Health Service staff in Scotland have become accustomed to slurs from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) and the Minister. Is the Minister aware that my personal experience during the day of action five weeks ago confirmed that NHS staff are providing full cover for emergency cases while pursuing their justified wage claims? If anyone is guilty of putting patients in danger, surely it must be the Minister and his right hon. Friend?

Mr. MacKay

I am not sure whether I should congratulate the hon. Member on his return to good health, although I do so. I join him in congratulating those in the Health Service who declined to go on strike and have continued to work, often well beyond their normal duties, to maintain the high standard of patient care to which we are accustomed in the National Health Service.