HC Deb 05 July 1999 vol 334 cc628-9
7. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes)

What estimate he has made of the cost in social security benefits of the waiting times experienced by patients for orthopaedic (a) consultations and (b) operations. [88031]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Bayley)

Spending on social security benefits is affected by very many factors, and it is not possible to isolate the benefit cost of waiting for orthopaedic treatment.

Mr. Steen

Will the Minister explain to the House why 25-year-old Jason Ganney of Buckfastleigh will be on state benefits until October 2001, as he has been told that that is the earliest date on which he can have a knee operation? He injured his knee while playing rugger for the Buckfastleigh Ramblers against the Exeter Saracens. He is a skilled young man. He is married and his wife is expecting a child, but he cannot look after her and has to stay on state benefits because the national health service cannot give him a date before October 2001 for a minor knee operation. Is that not disgraceful?

Mr. Bayley

I have seen the correspondence between the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Health, and it is for the Department of Health to answer on health matters. I shall confine myself to the social security matters. The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. He will be aware that the new deal for disabled people is already addressing the need to ensure that people who suffer an injury while in work can retain their jobs.

The national health service inherited from the previous Government a terrible legacy on waiting lists. The Secretary of State for Health said that it would take a 10-year programme to rebuild the national health service. However, there has been substantial progress already. An additional £417 million was provided for waiting list initiatives last year, and another £320 million this year. The number of people on waiting lists is considerably lower nationally, and lower by 4,600 in Devon, which is a 14 per cent. reduction. The Secretary of State for Health will continue to press for a reduction in waiting times for all treatments.