§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
A record 8.8 million patients were treated as in-patients and day cases in 1990–91 compared with 6.5 million in 1978. That represented a 34 per cent. increase.
§ Mr. Knox
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures provide strong evidence of the improvement and 962 expansion of the national health service since the Government came into office? Will she confirm that the increase in the number of patients treated has been faster since the national health service reforms were introduced?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
Indeed, I can confirm that. I have already made it clear that the rate of increase in the number of patients treated has doubled since the Government came to power, as opposed to when the Opposition were in power. There has been an increase of something like 7 per cent. since the introduction of the NHS reforms. There can be no doubt that, on any test, the NHS reforms have resulted in improvements to the quality of health care.
§ Mrs. Golding
Is the Minister aware of the unacceptable delays occurring yet again at the Birmingham children's hospital? Is she aware that Andrew Brown, a 10-year-old boy in my constituency, has been waiting more than a year for serious open heart surgery? Having been told to prepare himself to go into hospital tomorrow for surgery, he received a message yesterday that he could no longer go in. Two days' notice was given of the cancellation. His parents are distraught as they have been preparing him for weeks. When will we learn to treat our children properly? When will we do something about the Birmingham children's hospital?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
The hon. Lady illustrates exactly why it is so important for us to tackle waiting times, and why the achievements of the last year, with the number of those waiting more than a year falling by one third, are so important. All the cases are individual cases like the one to which the hon. Lady refers. That is why the achievement of reducing those waiting more than two years from 51,000 to under 2,000 has been so important. With regard to the individual case that the hon. Lady mentioned, I shall make inquiries myself on her behalf. She has mentioned one case: we are anxious to ensure that all NHS patients are seen as swiftly as possible, and we have made real progress in achieving that.