§ Mr. Malone
There has been no recent departmental inspection but, as my hon. Friend knows, I recently visited Basildon hospital where I was able to see the new Mary Wright unit for general practitioner referrals. I was impressed by the way that the unit speeds up the entry of patients to hospital and reduces the pressure on the accident and emergency department.
§ Mr. Amess
Does my hon. Friend agree that the local hospital has been able to develop and enhance services since obtaining trust status? Will he join me in celebrating Hospice Fortnight and in congratulating the staff of St. Luke's hospice in my constituency, of Fair Haven in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) and of Little Haven in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) on their magnificent work?
§ Mr. Malone
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in his remarks. The trust in his area has an extremely impressive record. Day case activity has increased by 25.9 per cent. and the trust achieved a maximum wait of 12 months for 673 all day cases and in-patient treatments by the end of March 1996. No patient waits for more than 13 weeks for a routine first out-patient appointment. I also remember visiting the trust when it was awarded a citizens charter mark for excellence in service provision—which is much appreciated by all patients.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
Does the Minister visit hospitals prior to their being awarded charter marks or hospitals that are not awarded charter marks? If he did, he might have visited Basildon during the bad times that were endured by my constituents in Thurrock and by the people of Basildon who suffered inordinate waiting times in the accident and emergency department because of the closure of the accident and emergency department at Orsett hospital. The people of Edgware are soon to suffer a similar experience. The fact is that the Minister turns up when there is good news but he is not prepared to face patients during the bad times like those suffered by the people of Thurrock and of Basildon.
§ Mr. Malone
I visited the Basildon trust within a few weeks of being appointed Minister in order to see how our policies were affecting it. The hon. Gentleman is quite right: there were bad times. However, the bad times have gone and the good times are here as a result of our policies which the hon. Gentleman has persistently opposed.