HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 cc861-2
3. Mr. Brian Cotter (Weston-super-Mare)

If he will make a statement on the average out-patient waiting time for an ear, nose and throat consultation in the Avon health authority area in the last 12 months [142898]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper)

The latest figures, for the quarter ending 30 September 2000, show that in Avon health authority the number of ENT out-patients being seen in less than 13 weeks increased from 54 per cent. to 57 per cent., compared with the previous year. On that date, the number of patients in Avon waiting more than 13 weeks was 7.8 per cent. lower than on the same day in 1999. Avon health authority, like others, will benefit from the action in the NHS plan to cut maximum waiting times for out-patients.

Mr. Cotter

We in Weston-super-Mare must be very unlucky. Is the Minister aware chat the mother of a five-year-old suffering from a recurrent ear infection has been told that the child must wait a year for an appointment? I am sure that she will agree that that is a long time for a child to suffer discomfort.

Yvette Cooper

I know that the Weston area health NHS trust has shown the greatest improvement in dealing with ENT long-waiters, with 63 per cent. having their out-patient appointment in less than 13 weeks, compared with 43 per cent. the previous year. However, I shall look into the case mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

Has the NHS executive for the region covering Avon health authority been charged with ensuring that best practice is spread from one trust to another, so that those in Avon health authority can benefit from best practice elsewhere? My local trust, at Princess Margaret hospital, has reduced the number of people waiting 13 weeks for ENT appointments from 200 to 75 in only three months. We want such progress to be made throughout the country. No one should wait more than 26 weeks. Such best practice should be spread to Avon health authority and elsewhere.

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we need to spread throughout the country the best practice used in many areas. That is what the action on ENT programme is all about. The pilot of the partial booking system in Basildon has already met the three-month wait target for out-patients set in the NHS plan, and we shall introduce that system throughout the country.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

As one who shares the Avon health authority area with the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Cotter), I can confirm that cases such as the one that he mentioned occur throughout the region. Does the Minister accept that the situation in Avon is mirrored throughout the country? Can she confirm that the waiting list for the waiting list, which is what the hon. Gentleman described, is now 55,000 higher than when the Government came to office; and that consultants throughout the country are now saying that the waiting list initiative itself means that they are spending a disproportionate amount of time in theatre dealing with minor cases, while the sickest patients often wait longer to see a consultant in out-patients? How many patients will have to suffer as a consequence of that policy before it is abandoned?

Yvette Cooper

I am proud that the Government have met our manifesto pledge to cut in-patient waiting lists by more than 100,000. It is absolutely right that we should cut waiting times in in-patients and out-patients, and that is exactly what is set out in the NHS plan. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to explain why he said that patients should wait longer for certain treatments. Will he say which of his constituents in Avon he believes should wait longer as a result of his proposals?

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