HC Deb 17 January 1995 vol 252 cc570-1
5. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the document "Working for Patients".

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

"Working for Patients" has been a great success. Some 96 per cent. of NHS hospitals are now trusts, more than half of all eligible practices are now fundholding and, most important, the quality and quantity of patient care continue to improve.

Mrs. Mahon

Five years after the grossly misnamed "Working for Patients" document, we have the longest-ever waiting lists and the obscenity of people dying because there are no intensive care beds and services for the mentally ill are dangerously underprovided. Will the right hon. Lady make a brief statement on the document and its consequences, perhaps saying, "The Government got it wrong and my team and I resign"?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Lady will know that the length of time that people wait has just about halved, that every day we treat 3,000 more patients than we did at the time of "Working for Patients" and that the quality, and quantity of care have improved. We have increased the number of hip operations by 24 per cent., of cataract operations by 44 per cent. and of cardiac operations by 66 per cent. Those are dramatic improvements in the health service.

When considering how to spend the extra £1.3 billion that we are putting into the NHS this year, health authorities will want to be sure that they have the balance right between intensive care, mental health services and reducing waiting times. They are pleased to have Conservatives in government as we provide extra resources for the health service—unlike the Labour party, which cut expenditure on the health service in real terms.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

As "Working for Patients" has led directly to reduced bureaucracy and improved care for patients, especially in my constituency of Norwich, North, will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming today's announcement in Norwich of approval for the outline business plan for the new district general hospital? It is good news. Way back in the past, there was a history of delay and endless prevarication. Under the new reforms, we now have approval, so will my right hon. Friend ensure that we get the new hospital as quickly as possible?

Mrs. Bottomley

Most certainly; I can do just that. Because we have been determined to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health service, it is possible for patients to have a dividend. There can be a massive capital programme with a new project starting every eight days. That is what the Conservative party delivers. All that the Labour party delivers is the wish list of the trade unions, at a price of £1 billion, achieving nothing for patients and nothing for the NHS. It is just trying to keep the left wing happy. Of course, the greatest waiting list scandal in the NHS is the waiting list for a Labour party policy on the health service.