HC Deb 01 November 1988 vol 139 cc806-7
3. Mr. Galbraith

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what reduction in hospital waiting lists he expects after removing those patients who have already had treatment or who no longer require it.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. David Mellor)

Many waiting lists will contain the names of patients who no longer, in fact, require treatment. It is not possible to put a figure on this, although some studies suggest that it could be 10 per cent. or more.

Mr. Galbraith

The Minister is correct. Many studies suggest that the figure is at least 10 per cent. and sometimes as high as 30 per cent. I thank the Minister for that answer and welcome him on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box in his new post.

The Minister will realise that the thinning of waiting lists that takes place when those patients are removed greatly improves the efficiency and delivery of care. What plans has he to ensure that every health authority thins its waiting list in this appropriate manner and therefore improves patient care throughout the country?

Mr. Mellor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. I appreciate his expertise in these matters and the non-partisan way in which he has put a question that goes to the heart of our concern. We are keen that waiting lists should realistically reflect the workload of a district. To that end, we have been sending out questionnaires and requests to districts to ensure that they improve their information systems. The new Körner system is giving us much better statistics than we used to have. We also see an obligation to try to improve the mechanisms, whether in human terms or in terms of the machines needed to ensure that proper records are available. It is crucial to the efficient management of a district that we know exactly the state of a waiting list. It should not be swollen by people who do not want an operation after all.

Dame Jill Knight

Will the Minister tell the House the percentage numbers of patients on waiting lists for spare part surgery, where there must obviously be difficulties in moving them from the waiting list?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend is right. One of the major constraints of spare part surgery is the availability of organs to be transplanted. She will have noted the initiative taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), the Under-Secretary of State for Health, to encourage more people to carry donor cards, which would assist that process. We are proud of the fact that there has been a marked expansion in spare part surgery. We started heart transplants in 1979 and now have a programme that enables almost 300 a year to be done, and I hope that we shall be able to do more in the near future.