HC Deb 04 July 1994 vol 246 cc17-8
33. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in what way the introduction of league tables in public services is helping to raise service standards.

Mr. Waldegrave

Publication of comparative information is of immense value to those seeking to raise standards in their public service organisation, such as schools and colleges. I much welcome the recent publication of tables on the performance of hospitals and ambulance authorities. I am sure that the national health service will respond in a positive way to that important development.

Mrs. Lait

Does my right hon. Friend agree that all hospitals will respond to that information and improve standards? Does he further agree with a leader that appeared in The Guardian last week, which called the publication of those tables a milestone and commented that both main Opposition parties had made fools of themselves?

Mr. Meacher

What about The Daily Telegraph?

Mr. Waldegrave

In spite of the allegation by the distinguished classicist, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), I do read The Guardian. I not only read the leader to which my hon. Friend referred but one published the week before, which predicted the Opposition's response: Predictably, MPs from both main Opposition parties (as well as the BMA) are lining up to make fools of themselves. As my hon. Friend rightly said, they did make fools of themselves.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

Is not it ironic that a hospital that received a five-star rating for its waiting list last week has as one of its patients Mrs. Megan Thompson, one of my constituents, who was told that she had to wait until 1999 before she could even get on a waiting list? Does not that imply cheating somewhere?

Mr. Waldegrave

As usual, such cases need to be looked at extremely closely. If it turns out that that case is as the hon. Lady said, something has gone seriously wrong. As the hon. Lady rightly said, the hospital in question has an extremely good performance record. It is most ironical that, as always, even the hon. Lady—who often knows better—is doing what The Guardian rightly described as seeking to stop patients having important information that they have a democratic right to know. Why does the hon. Lady do that?

Mr. Mans

Does my right hon. Friend agree that publishing league tables for hospitals and other services is not about finding winners and losers, but about bringing everyone's standards up to the best standards in that particular service?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. There are many examples that I could cite. Last Friday The Oxford Times said that the health authority's immediate response was to take action to improve the standards in the league tables which, in one or two respects, were not good enough. That is the right response. Information must be published and action taken to put right cases, such as that mentioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), where standards are inadequate.

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