HC Deb 08 May 1989 vol 152 cc542-4
7. Mr. Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many (a) in-patients and (b) out-patients were treated in National Health Service hospitals in Wales in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what were the figures in 1979.

Mr. Grist

In 1987, 448,716 in-patients were treated and 516,861 new out-patients were seen in NHS hospitals in Wales. Comparable figures for 1979 were 349,695 in-patients and 428,739 out-patients. Those figures represent increases of 28 per cent. and 21 per cent., respectively, since 1979.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures, above all others, show the improvement in the National Health Service since 1979?

Mr. Grist

They certainly do, and they show the strain under which the Health Service is placed by an increase in demand and its success in meeting that demand. It is worth noting that during the period of the last Labour Government, in-patient cases increased by only 6 per cent. as opposed to 28 per cent. under this Government and that the number of new out-patients fell by 3 per cent. as opposed to rising by 20 per cent. under this Government.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Will the Under-Secretry of State look at the out-patient figures because there is a crisis in the dermatology service in south Wales? In my constituency it now takes up to two years to get an appointment to see a consultant dermatologist. Will the hon. Gentleman look at the figures again and provide some more money to ensure that dermatology does not remain the Cinderella service of the Health Service?

Mr. Grist

I am not sure about it being a Cinderella service, but we are certainly aware of the shortages in that area and are addressing them urgently.

Mr. Raffan

Does my hon. Friend agree that that dramatic increase in the number of patients treated in Wales has been made possible by the massive increase in Government spending in Wales on the NHS, which has increased from£11 per week for every household in Wales in 1978–79 to £36 per week for every household in Wales in 1989–90? Does he also agree that the NHS White Paper proposals, such as the appointment of more consultants and giving GPs their choice of hospitals, will ensure that that trend continues and that more patients are treated more quickly in the future?

Mr. Grist

That is our precise intention—to give patients the choice, to give doctors the ability to offer the choice to their patients, and to provide the spur to the hospital services to make sure that choice is a reality. It is worth noting that under this Government the number of consultants has increased by 22.5 per cent., the number of registrars by more than 11 per cent., and the number of those directly concerned with patient care by more than 17 per cent. That is this Government's record.

Mr. Alan W. Williams

What advice does the Minister offer my constituent who is 83 years old and needs an eye operation? That gentleman has had severely deteriorating eyesight for many years, and now he cannot read a newspaper or watch television. His quality of life is being severely jeopardised. All he needs is an operation to remove scar tissue from the eye and a slight cataract for which he has been told by his consultant he will have to wait seven months. He is 83 years old, and there is a seven-month waiting list for what is really a minor operation. The same consultant told him that, if he had it done privately, he could do the operation for him straight away at a cost of about £1,000.

Mr. Grist

I cannot give individual advice on such a case. If the hon. Gentleman writes to me with details, we will look into the matter. It is worth noting that under our proposals the general practitioner of the hon. Gentleman's constituent would be able to look around for other waiting lists that very often would be a great deal shorter, but about which at present he may be entirely ignorant. The hon. Gentleman describes precisely the sort of situation that we wish to bring to an end.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

Are not the very creditable increases in the number of patients being treated the real measure of the Government's commitment to continuing the expansion and improvement of the Health Service? Does my hon. Friend agree that that refutes the spurious claims about bed numbers? Because of the deployment of resources, under-utilised beds can reduce the number of people being treated.

Mr. Grist

Certainly the enormous rise in day cases under this Government, which is a part of modern medicine, has made a tremendous change in the use of beds. As I know myself, people can go in and out of hospital under modern medication at a speed that was almost undreamed of when most of us were young.

Mr. Michael

Rather than repeat statistics that he must know are misleading, will the Minister recognise that the health record of the Government, of which the Secretary of State has been a Member for 10 years, and their future health policies, which have been drawn up by a Cabinet Committee of which the Secretary of State was a member, were wholeheartedly rejected by the voters of the Vale of Glamorgan? Will the Secretary of State, therefore, exclude Wales from the proposals set out in the Health Service White Paper?

Mr. Grist

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends gave misleading statistics. I believe that they will find, when the general election comes, that they have been rumbled. When we have a population with increasing health benefits, with more centenarians, with people living longer, better and more healthily, with more people being innoculated and vaccinated, and with people keeping their teeth longer, it staggers me that any hon. Member could say that the Health Service is failing under this Government.

Forward to