HC Deb 06 July 2004 vol 423 cc669-70
1. Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con)

What recent representations he has received concerning early retirement from the NHS by senior consultants. [182181]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not received any recent representations on that issue.

Alistair Burt

Why does the Minister think that the Health Service Journal reported in the past two weeks that trusts were being offered money to massage the figures on the number of consultants still in place at the end of March 2004? Does he think that it was connected with an internal policy document from the Department of Health, that warned of the short-term nature of some measures designed to maximise the consultant count in March, such as delayed retirement? Does he appreciate the damage done to the health service through the constant manipulation of all sorts of figures, which means that no one can trust anything that the Government say any more on the health service?

Mr. Hutton

No, I do not accept any of the hon. Gentleman's points. It is a good thing, not a bad thing, to bring forward consultant appointments. It is a good thing, not a bad thing, to delay consultant retirements from the NHS, for one simple reason: it allows more patients to be treated more quickly in his constituency and in the constituencies of all his right hon. and hon. Friends.

There is one other thing that I should say to the hon. Gentleman: we will guarantee waiting times for NHS patients and his party would not.

Dr. Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest) (Ind)

Difficulties with continuity of care appear to me to be one of the most difficult factors with which consultants must cope. What plans has the Minister to address those concerns?

Mr. Hutton

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who speaks with some experience on these matters, that continuity of care for patients is an important issue. Equally, it is an important issue for NHS consultants and doctors. The best way to tackle those problems and others is to continue to expand the number of consultants and doctors working in the NHS, and that is precisely what we will do.

Back to