HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc962-3
11. Mr. Cummings

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the progress being made within the national health service to put the patients charter into practice.

Mr. Sackville

The national health service has made substantial progress in implementing the patients charter, which came into effect on 1 April.

NHS staff at all levels have given the patients charter a warm welcome. Their response and commitment to providing a high-quality health service as embodied by the patients charter is to be applauded.

Mr. Cummings

Does the Minister really believe what he has just told the House? If so, how does he square his remarks with the case of the 19-year-old youth in my area who has had his operation cancelled four times since March, on the last occasion at three hours' notice? Will he now admit to the House that his charter is a con trick and a sham?

Mr. Sackville

The more I hear Opposition Members trying to denigrate the patients charter, the more confident I am that we are very much on the right track. In the case of operations that are cancelled—often unavoidably, as a result of emergencies and so on—we have given specific guidance in the patients charter to the effect that all such operations should be given priority wherever possible.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that GPs themselves will play an important role in pursuing the patients charter? Is he aware that, in my constituency, no less than 78 per cent. of the population will be dealt with by GP fund holders by the end of this year? Is not that an example of the way that doctors are taking advantage of the Government's health reforms to provide better services for their patients?

Mr. Sackville

I agree with my hon. Friend. GP fund holding gives an opportunity to respond directly to patients' needs.

Ms. Lynne

The first right in the patients charter is the right to health care based on clinical need, regardless of ability to pay. Given that there are only 55 salaried dentists in the country, will the Minister explain how the Government can meet their obligation if there is a mass exodus of dentists from the NHS?

Mr. Sackville

I should like to make two points. First, family health services authorities have a responsibility to provide an NHS dentist to anyone in their area who needs one. Secondly, I remind the hon. Lady of the fundamental review announced in the past two days, which will ensure that we shall not arrive at this situation with dentists again.

Miss Emma Nicholson

I recognise the excellence of the patients charter, but does the Minister agree that patients and their families have an obligation to ensure that public money is well spent and that many operations are delayed because patients do not turn up—either to an appointment or for the operation itself.

Mr. Sackville

We have made it very clear through the patients charter that we believe that it is a two-way street: the patients have responsibilities as well as the health service. The public can do many things to improve health.