§ 5. Mr. Michael
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the patient care targets which he has given to the health service in Wales.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett
After consultation with directors of public health medicine, preliminary targets of each of our 10 health gain priority areas have been issued to the service to inform the development of local strategies for health.
§ Mr. Michael
Will not the Under-Secretary of State accept something that is obvious to everyone else in the health service—that the Government are not setting targets but merely describing health changes predicted in the normal course of events, without providing any new resources or fresh initiatives? Will he face the fact that the way to set and to meet real and meaningful improved health targets in Wales is in partnership with doctors, nurses, health visitors, community health councils and everyone else involved? Will he, as a first step, withdraw the Government's divisive plans for hospital opt-outs and end the crazy experiment in creating a so-called market for health care in Wales?
§ Mr. Bennett
The hon. Gentleman is the last person still to believe that anything in the reforms is about hospitals opting out. They do not; they remain NHS trust hospitals, paid for out of the generality of taxation and free at the point of service to patients.
§ Mr. Bennett
There is no use the hon. Gentleman shouting "Nonsense". Those facts are enshrined in the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990. I am only sorry that the hon. Gentleman runs down the excellent work done by the Health Promotion Authority for Wales and the strategies, which were formulated in consultation with all the people working in the health service. It is no use the hon. Member for Cardiff. South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) questioning the targets. The first of them has already been reached, but as one goes further and further, such as when dealing with cancer treatment, it becomes more difficult to deal with intractable cases.
§ Mr. Wigley
Does the Under-Secretary of State agree that the difference in waiting times as between NHS patients and those who are treated privately—often by the same specialist offering to provide identical treatment in a fraction of the waiting time—is unacceptable? Should not the Welsh Office set itself the target of eliminating that disparity?
§ Mr. Bennett
I certainly want waiting times to shorten and waiting lists to be reduced. I am grateful that the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs examined the question of elective surgery. As part of my evidence to that Committee, I said that I had visited the five hospitals with the worst waiting lists, which between them account for nearly 50 per cent. of the waiting lists in Wales. My officials are currently preparing further information on how we might tackle that situation.