HC Deb 08 December 1992 vol 215 cc684-5
8. Mr. Gapes

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to improve performance in those provider units that are not reaching targets specified in the patients charter.

Mr. Sackville

Regional health authorities are accountable to the NHS management executive, through contracts, for their districts' performance and for taking aciton to ensure that problems are remedied. It is for health authorities, as purchasers, to ensure that providers' performance on patients charter activity meet the standards set in contracts. Authorities must, therefore, take action where performance falls below standard.

Mr. Gapes

Is the Minister aware that there are in my constituency people who have been waiting for 54 weeks at King George's hospital and 66 weeks at Barking hospital for orthopaedic operations, while others have been waiting for up to 35 weeks to see a female gynaecologist? Is he further aware that since the present Secretary of State took office, 130 additional people per day have been added to waiting lists and that in the North-East Thames region there has been an increase of 2.1 per cent. in the number of people on the waiting list for up to one year and 3.9 per cent. in total? It is a disgrace that the Government should be doing nothing to reduce waiting lists.

Mr. Sackville

I ask the hon. Gentleman to remember that activity on in-patients has gone up by 32 per cent. in recent years in Redbridge, that it has gone up by 15 per cent. for day cases and that there is a £58 million hospital development at Goodmayes, the largest in the whole of the North East Thames region.

Mr. Tredinnick

In connection with homoeopathy, given the importance and popularity of alternative and complementary medicine, does the Minister agree that it would be an important addition to the patients charter to set standards for health authorities to implement ways in which patients might obtain those benefits? Does he recall that his predecessor, the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said that the alternative disciplines could be paid for through the NHS if the necessary powers were delegated and responsibility was taken by GPs?

Mr. Sackville

Under our system, purchasers, whether health authorities or fund holders, have greater opportunity to decide on the treatment that they consider to be appropriate. I have no doubt that complementary medicine will be given all proper consideration.

Mr. Turner

How does the patients charter relate to dermatology patients at the Royal hospital, Wolverhampton, who had to occupy their ward last weekend to prevent it from being closed at weekends to save cash? How does that relate to the rights of patients?

Mr. Sackville

The hon. Gentleman knows that health authorities must monitor the standard set locally by providers. They will all be required to publish annually a report showing how those performance standards have been met.