§ 21. Mr. Kilfedder
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he intends to take to reduce the delay for National Health Service operations.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)
The Department of Health and Social Services is currently addressing hospital in-patient waiting lists through the accountability reviews by ensuring that action to reduce waiting times for operations is accorded a high priority.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Is the Minister aware that many patients, relatives and general practitioners, particularly in my constituency of North Down, are extremely worried about the delay in some operations? Will he consider the matter again?
§ Mr. Needham
I assure the hon. Gentleman that we keep the matter under close observation. As he will know, the key indicator is waiting times rather than waiting lists. The waiting lists in Northern Ireland amount to 32 per cent. of in-patients, which is exactly the same percentage as before. Of course, we will continue to watch the position closely which is why in the accountability reviews with the boards we are making certain that all the statistics available are checked to see what we can do to reduce waiting lists as quickly as possible.