HC Deb 26 January 1994 vol 236 cc283-4
11. Mrs. Ray Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what new initiatives the health service in Scotland has undertaken to reduce hospital waiting lists.

Mr. Stewart

My noble and learned Friend the Minister of State recently announced the distribution of funds totalling more than £3 billion to health boards for 1994–95, which, together with efficiency savings, gives an increase of 5.3 per cent. in available resources. It is for individual health boards to use the resources provided to take forward initiatives that will secure continuing reductions in waiting times.

Mrs. Michie

Is the Minister aware of the waiting list initiative at Canniesburn hospital, whereby patients from health boards in the west of Scotland will be offered treatment in the private sector in Glasgow or south of the border? Is it not ludicrous that national health service surgeons should have to tackle the backlog within the private sector? Will the Minister therefore confirm that my constituents in the Argyll and Clyde health board area who require such treatment might have to travel to England for it? If that is so, the once proud national health service in Scotland has reached a pretty pass.

Mr. Stewart

I can tell the hon. Lady precisely what the situation is. There has been insufficient capacity at Canniesburn hospital to treat all remaining "long waiters" for plastic surgery, which I think is what the hon. Lady refers to. Therefore, Greater Glasgow health board, with the other west of Scotland health boards, took an initiative. It put the contract out to a full competitive tendering exercise, and it went to the Bon Secour Health System, which is held in the highest regard. I thought that the hon. Lady would have welcomed that extra provision for her constituents.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that when the waiting lists and waiting times in the Glen Garry and Meigle catchment areas were calculated, future projections of population trends were taken into consideration? If so, will my hon. Friend confirm that the figures will be made available? The regional authority, the local authority and most of my constituents believe that calculations on the future of Meigle cottage hospital are flawed and consequently should be looked at again.

Mr. Stewart

I appreciate that my hon. Friend is speaking a constituency Member. I assure him that either my noble Friend the Minister of State or I will be very happy to meet him to discuss the detailed figures which lay behind the decision on Meigle hospital.

Mr. Connarty

Is the Minister aware of the tragic deaths of Rose McCormack and her son Jack in the town of Grangemouth before the festive season? Their bodies lay undiscovered for seven weeks. The child died of starvation. Will the Minister join Opposition Members in passing on the Government's deepest sympathy to the family, the neighbours and the town of Grangemouth? I am not trying to allocate blame, but will the Minister assure me that there will be an internal inquiry to find out how the bodies of a nine-month-old child and an insulin-dependent mother could lie undiscovered for such a long period?

Mr. Stewart

I join the hon. Gentleman's expressions of concern and sympathy to the relatives and friends involved. I assure him that an inquiry is under way. My noble Friend the Minister of State will be happy to meet him to discuss the matter.

Mr. Kynoch

Is my hon. Friend aware that Aberdeen Royal hospital, an NHS trust, the formation of which all Opposition parties opposed, is now treating a record number of in-patients, out-patients and day patients, and is carrying out a record number of operations? Is not that the best way to reduce waiting lists? The sooner that Opposition parties realise that our reforms are working in the best interests of patients, the better.

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the concrete facts, which indicate that trust status works and improves services to patients. Clearly, Opposition Members have lost the battle over trust status. The Government have gone from strength to strength in terms of improvements, which are there for people to see for themselves.

Mr. Ernie Ross

The Minister may believe that, but I draw his attention to constituents of mine, such as the man of 72 who was approach my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) at church on Sunday. This 72-year-old man had to be helped into church, having waited for four months for an angiogram. The Minister cannot dodge his responsibility for the waiting lists, which continue as a result of his failure to provide proper funding for the health service.

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot comment on the individual case to which he refers, as I do not know the details. However, I can say that the funds allocated by my noble Friend the Minister of State will allow for an increase of 2.5 per cent. next year in the number of patients treated. That is over and above the increase of 28 per cent. per annum in the number of in-patients treated in 1993 compared with 1979, and represents an increase of 225 per cent. in the number of day patients treated during that period. These figures, beyond any shadow of dispute, indicate a pattern of continued improvements in health care in Scotland under the Conservative Government.