HC Deb 05 March 1991 vol 187 c131
13. Mr. Bidwell

To ask the Secretary of Stale for Health what steps he is taking to bring about a reduction in hospital waiting lists.

Mr. Waldegrave

The NHS management executive is agreeing tough targets for the reduction of long waits with all 14 regional health authorities. We are also continuing the special waiting list fund in 1991–92 with an extra £35 million to help health authorities reduce the number of patients who wait excessively.

Mr. Bidwell

What kind of national health service are the Government running when patients waiting for surgical treatment, such as hip replacements, are told that they may have to wait for years in some parts of the country but that if they come to London, they can get the job done in a matter of weeks if they are prepared to pay for it? That is forcing poor people to have a whip round among their families to afford the necessary treatment. We are returning to the days before the existence of the national health service, which some 'of us can still remember setting out to change.

Mr. Waldegrave

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has raised that subject, as the waiting lists in his health authority have been tumbling. The total waiting lists in Ealing health authority have fallen by 43 per cent. according to the most recent figures available, and Ealing has almost entirely abolished, by an 86 per cent. drop, its long-term waiting lists. That is one example among many of the progress that is being made and the care that we are taking not to slip back to the days when the Labour party was running the health service.