HC Deb 16 June 1992 vol 209 cc766-8
6. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many requests her Department has received from members of the public for copies of the patients charter since its publication.

Mr. Sackville

The Department has had nearly 900,000 requests for copies of the patients charter.

Mr. Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that the patients charter not only gives rights to potential patients, but demands responsibilities from them? To that end, is he aware of the contents of the national fitness survey issued yesterday by the Health Education Authority, which not only showed that between seven and eight people out of every 10 in this country do not do enough exercise to keep themselves healthy, but that 80 per cent. of the population think that they are fit when they are not, including the parliamentary football team, as it displayed at lunch time? What action will the Government take to ensure that people understand the message, which is so important for good preventive health care?

Mr. Sackville

My hon. Friend clearly appears before us at the peak of physical fitness. However, having seen the results of the Lords and Commons tug-of-war match yesterday, I am afraid that I cannot apply that comment more generally. My hon. Friend is right to refer to the national fitness survey because it underlines the fact that the patients charter is a two-way street. It confers right on patients, but it also confers duties on them to try to keep themselves fit and healthy. We shall be making that message exceedingly clear.

Dr. Lynne Jones

In view of the Secretary of State's comments to a local paper in Birmingham that patient care must come first, does the Minister share my concern at the letter sent by the South Birmingham health authority to general practitioners telling them not to refer patients for psychological services? Is it not time that the full details of the financial crisis in South Birmingham were published so that the people of Birmingham can see the full effects of those financial difficulties on patient care?

Mr. Sackville

We have made it clear that we intend to take positive action to ensure no disruption in services as a result of the financial problems of the South Birmingham health authority. We have already commissioned a report and we have allocated extra funds to ensure that there is continuity of services.

Mr. Hayes

Does my hon. Friend agree that all those people who continually moan about the patients charter and national health service trusts should go and see them for themselves? They would find enthusiastic staff at all levels, more patients being treated and more money being spent on patient care. Will the Minister please give us more good news about the health service, because there is a hell of a lot of good news that we do not hear about?

Mr. Sackville

I echo my hon. Friend's remarks, and I stress that the patients charter has been extremely well received by NHS staff.

Mr. Miller

As one who has tested the services of the national health service recently in an attempt to obtain peak fitness, I suppose that I could make some remarks about the local health district, but I shall refrain from doing so. In the context of the patients charter, what success has been obtained in reducing waiting lists in neurology in the Mersey region? Will the Minister investigate what is going on and do something urgently about it?

Mr. Sackville

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman detailed information, but I will write to him.

Mr. Rowe

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a lot easier to keep fit if one did not have to spend so much time answering letters from one's constituents? Does he further agree that the substantial postbags that all hon. Members receive contain a large number of letters from constituents quoting the patients charter and using it as a yardstick against which to measure local services, the charter having had a salutary effect right through the health service and being taken into account by every decision-maker in the NHS?

Mr. Sackville

I echo my hon. Friend's comments. The patients charter has not only provided a target for staff to strive for in the NHS but has informed patients of their rights, and that has had a salutary effect.

Forward to