§ 11. Mr. Win Griffiths
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the latest information she has about waiting lists for hospital treatment.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
The latest information shows that last year the number of patients waiting over one year fell by over 58,000—45 per cent.—to the lowest level ever recorded. Half of all admissions to hospital are immediate. Of those who wait, 30 per cent. are admitted within two weeks, three quarters within three months and 98 per cent. within a year.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Is the Secretary of State aware—and, I hope, ashamed—of various devices being used to reduce waiting lists, including consultants putting cases in their drawers when they know that money is not available to fund treatment, as happened in the case of a close relative of mine, and of the underfunding of the health service, which is forcing hospitals such as the Westminster children's hospital to close specialist units and which means that potentially life-saving treatment is denied to children, who are then taken off waiting lists at a stroke.
§ Mrs. Bottomley
Frankly, I think that it is despicable for the hon. Gentleman to try to undermine the dramatic achievements of health service staff. There have been remarkable results in reducing waiting times, which has also set benchmarks for first out-patient appointments. If the hon. Gentleman has an isolated case that he wants me, or anyone else, to investigate, I will happily do so, but I have been impressed by the way in which region after region, having delivered the targets on in-patient and day cases, are now delivering targets and creating benchmarks on first out-patient appointments.
The individual case to which the hon. Gentleman referred is complex, requiring a specialised form of treatment. The professor responsible for the child's care at Westminster is still responsible now that he has moved to Bristol. Other hospitals are involved and are seeing whether they can find a matched bone marrow donation. The matter is complex and, of course, we all feel greatly for the family involved.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one reason why one-year waiting lists have dropped by no less than 40 per cent. in my constituency over the past year is the excellent and close relationship between the hospital and local general practitioners'? Does she also agree that that could have something to do with the enthusiasm of local GPs for GP fund holding? Given the fact that by the end of the year 80 per cent. of the people in my constituency will be being treated by GP fund holders, is not it likely that that good relationship will continue?
§ Mrs. Bottomley
My hon. Friend rightly identifies the great contribution of GP fund holding, but it is not only that: all GPs are seeing the results of our policies in practice dramatically reducing waiting times. All that the Labour party can do is follow the advice of Alice in Wonderland. As the news gets better, they get furiouser and furiouser.