HC Deb 23 March 1993 vol 221 cc748-50
2. Mrs. Fyfe

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are being taken to ensure that no patients with urgent conditions are having their treatment delayed due to the early completion of contracts.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

Emergency cases are treated immediately and urgent cases are treated as soon as possible according to clinical need. In a letter to the chairman of the Joint Consultants Committee on 23 February, I made it clear that, whatever the particular social circumstances, there can be no question of patients requiring urgent investigation or treatment having it delayed because they come forward towards the end of the financial year. We have issued further guidance to the NHS on managing activity and change, and the JCC has supported that guidance.

Mrs. Fyfe

Does the Secretary of State find it satisfactory that hospitals scrabbling around for money to keep going until the end of the financial year get GP fund holders to give them patients while GPs who are not fund holders but have more seriously ill patients have to wait longer? Will she advise the Secretary of State for Scotland to learn from this fiasco in England and not to impose it on Scotland?

Mrs. Bottomley

I find it extremely satisfactory that we have the fewest ever patients waiting more than one year. I find it extremely satisfactory that from 1 April no one will wait more than 18 months for a hip, knee or cataract operation. I find it exceedingly satisfactory that the trusts have gone ahead and dealt with more patients. In the first nine months of the year, 325,000 more patients were treated than in the year before. Certainly we need to match activity and resourcess. The agreement with the JCC on GP fund holders makes it clear that patients will be treated without disadvantage to other NHS patients.

Mr. Lidington

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at Stoke Mandeville hospital, which has had financial problems in the past year, staff have managed to cut waiting lists and waiting times and to increase the number of patients treated by more than 2,000? Is that not a tribute to the efforts of all the staff, and will not the service that they provide be improved still further when the £29 million capital spending planned for Stoke Mandeville comes into operation?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is exactly right, and I can confirm his figures. Stoke Mandeville has made excellent progress. As with other hospitals, and as it has ever been in the NHS, activity and resources must be managed through the year, but Stoke Mandeville, like so many other hospitals, is treating more patients to a higher standard and cutting waiting times. The staff are to be warmly congratulated. Once again, the NHS reforms have shown that they result in better and more patient care.

Ms Lynne

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that the fiasco of the past few months, with beds closing throughout the country and urgent cases not being treated, will not be repeated at the end of the next financial year?

Mrs. Bottomley

I can inform the hon. Lady that we have established a working party with the profession, and I quote Stanley Simmons, chairman of the Conference of Medical Royal Colleges: the Conference of Medical Royal Colleges is encouraged to work constructively with the Management Executive to address those issues that have emerged and to that end expect to make positive recommendations in the coming months". We want to be sure that work is under way between management and clinicians to ensure that activity is better balanced. I am sure that the hon. Lady would be the first to pay tribute to the fact that more patients are being treated and waiting times have been coming down. It is just a question of ensuring that the contracts are better adapted throughout the year.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Lancaster Acute Hospital Trust on achieving 2.5 per cent. above target and 25 per cent above target with day cases? Thanks to the Lancaster health authority putting in more money, no urgent or emergency patients are waiting and it is still increasing its patient load.

Mrs. Bottomley

Once again, my hon. Friend has it exactly right. More money is going in; £100 million a day being spent on the NHS. What is important is not only the money going in, but the organisation and the output of the resources. There is no doubt that NHS trusts are delivering better, higher quality care. Patients are being treated and waiting times are coming right down.

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