HC Deb 14 February 1995 vol 254 cc786-7
7. Mr. Mullin

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received from Dr. John Yates regarding his study of consultants' waiting lists; what action she has taken; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I am aware of receiving no recent representations, although I am familiar with Dr. Yates's work of old. The action that we have taken is to establish national health service trusts, which are now in a far more effective position to ensure that all NHS consultants fulfil their obligations to the health service. As for waiting lists, I commend to the hon. Gentleman the new quarterly figures published today, which show waiting times continuing to come down and excellent progress towards our new patients charter target of a maximum 18-month wait.

Mr. Mullin

Is not the state of affairs disclosed by Dr. Yates's work scandalous? Why is the Secretary of State's Department so reluctant to face up to the issue of consultants who maintain dual waiting lists? Would not the best way to dispose of the corruption that surrounds dual waiting lists which are maintained by some consultants be to make them choose between working full time for the national health service and working full time privately?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman shows how divided his party is. His party leader says that he thinks that the new Labour party should be a model of collaboration between the public and private sectors, but the Labour party's vindictive loathing of the private sector is almost the only area of agreement in its non-existent health policy. Our commitment and our achievement have been to manage NHS consultants very much better, and to agree job plans, ensuring that the NHS comes first and that improvements are made in the service. The west midlands, where John Yates works, is now a model to be followed, promising a nine-month guarantee in relation to treating patients. Let us not have a vendetta against the private sector; let us manage NHS consultants to have the best possible NHS.

Mrs. Roe

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most effective way of ensuring that NHS consultants fulfil their obligations to the NHS is through strong local management? Is that not precisely what trusts are achieving? Does she further agree that local pay for consultants will offer an even stronger way of ensuring that the service is a good one?

Mrs. Bottomley

As ever, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. If John Yates did anything, he wrote a testimonial about why good NHS managers are necessary in a modern health service. Instead of denigrating the private sector and NHS managers, the Labour party should consider in more practical terms how we can maximise the ability of all members of our team so that they provide the best possible service. The move towards local pay, heralded last week in the review body reports—which I am pleased that we were able to accept in full—will ensure even greater effectiveness in enabling people to maximise their contribution to the NHS.