HC Deb 18 April 1995 vol 258 cc11-2
11. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of operations carried out in NHS hospitals may be unnecessary. [17563]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The need for an operation for a particular patient is a matter for clinical judgment. Research evidence is leading doctors everywhere to question the frequency of some interventions. The United Kingdom is leading the world in generating that evidence and in helping doctors and patients in the NHS to use it in treatment decisions.

Mr. Townsend

Is some internal NHS study being conducted? Bearing in mind the high speed of medical science, is not detailed national research required? Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that she will not be dilatory in ensuring that, if possible, savings are made in such a crucial area?

Mrs. Bottomley

I can assure my hon. Friend that it is a priority for the NHS that was set out in the planning guidance last year. There is progressive information about clinical effectiveness and outcomes, and a major NHS research programme is under way that supports that work. We work very closely with the professionals to ensure that we take forward understanding about effectiveness, monitor our work and improve practice.

Mr. Enright

Is the Secretary of State aware that Pontefract hospital mistrust proposes to privatise people who enter its accident and emergency unit by asking whether they have insurance and, if they have, to put them into a special ward that is to be constructed, with champagne in its rooms and scent in its corridors?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman will know that the standard of care in A and E departments has been further improved not only by the patients charter standard, but by the progressive move to a consultant-led service.

There has been a bigger increase in A and E consultants than in almost any other group in recent years, and we are determined to ensure that it continues. I am aware that the Opposition are conducting a vendetta against the private sector. We have no such feelings, and we wish to have the best possible NHS for all the patients who use it.

Mrs. Roe

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the recent report by the Health Select Committee on priority settings welcomed the Government's initiative to improve the spread of information throughout the NHS on the effectiveness of different clinical procedures? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such information is vital when making decisions about priorities? Will she assure the House that the Government will continue to support that important work?

Mrs. Bottomley

I can give my hon. Friend that clear assurance. In commending the Select Committee's report, the Government greatly appreciate its recognition of our work on effectiveness. The report mentioned the Cochrane centre in Oxford, and next week my hon. Friend the Minister for Health will open the Cochrane database for systematic reviews. That is a remarkable achievement, whereby information can be updated electronically so that clinicians and health authorities throughout the country—and in other parts of the world—can have the latest knowledge about the effectiveness of different clinical procedures.

Madam. Speaker

I call Mr. Wray on Question 13.