§ 11. Mr. Fabricant
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of patients treated in NHS hospitals receive their treatment (a) immediately, (b) within a month and (c) within a year; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
Half of all admissions are immediate. Of those who do wait, 44 per cent. are admitted within four weeks and three quarters wait for only three months. As a result of our initiatives, 98 per cent. of patients are admitted within a year.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is excellent news and is a true vindication of Conservative policy in reducing waiting lists? On the subject of waiting lists, would she care to speculate on how 139 long Conservative Members will have to wait for Labour Members to make up their minds on their policies for the national health service?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
My hon. Friend is exactly right. We have delivered remarkable reductions in waiting times and a record fall in one-year waiters and we have substantially reduced the average length of time that people must wait, both in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere. During this time, as my hon. Friend rightly says, health has been a policy-free zone for the Labour party. The Opposition are still contemplating their navels in respect of their relationship with the trade unions—and it was ever thus.
§ Mr. McCartney
When this Government talk about waiting lists we get lies, damned lies and then the Secretary of State. Waiting lists are at a record high and nearly 1 million people are on them. Since the Prime Minister came to office, 1,500 people a week have been joining the waiting lists. Why does not the Secretary of State publish waiting times for first out-patient appointments? In all parts of the country people are waiting up to two years just to get appointments to see consultants. That means that many patients are waiting for up to four years for treatment. When will the Secretary of State act on that?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
The success of the patients charter has been such that there have been dramatic falls in waiting times and the average times that people have to wait for in-patient care have fallen. Moreover, we are now setting out-patient waiting time targets and they will be published. Not only will they be met: I expect that, like our other waiting list targets, they will be beaten. The patients charter provides a written constitution of the health service and people in the health service have been delivering these targets for better patient care.
It is high time that the Labour party gave sonic credit to all the doctors, nurses and others in the health service who have worked so hard for patients.