HC Deb 04 May 2004 vol 420 cc1197-8
5. Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on the expansion of day surgery facilities in the national health service. [169827]

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

The Government are committed to expanding day surgery in the NHS. The proportion of elective care carried out on a day case basis has risen from 59 per cent. in 1996–97 to 67 per cent. in 2002–03. Our investment of £68 million in the past two years in day surgery facilities and more than £350 million in NHS and independent sector treatment centres will help to maintain that expansion.

Mr. Plaskitt

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. We have a successful 23-hour ward in Warwick hospital. It opened in temporary accommodation in January but moved to its permanent site two weeks ago. It has already treated 600 patients and is contributing to a further reduction in waiting times and waiting lists at the hospital. Does my right hon. Friend agree that more such units will be needed if we are to reach our target of performing 75 per cent. of all elective surgery on a day care basis?

Mr. Hutton

Yes, I agree that we shall need more facilities such as the excellent example that he has drawn to the House's attention. I should like to put on record my appreciation of the hard work of staff in his local NHS trust and of the excellent service that they provide to his constituents. It is more convenient for patients to be treated on a day case basis and more efficient for the NHS. All Labour Members want the extra investment to which we are committed to make that difference in treatment for NHS patients.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet) (Con)

The Minister will know that the Audit Commission report for 2001 stated that there was scope for an additional 120,000 day surgery cases to be carried out with the facilities that were available then. What progress has been made on fulfilling that report's recommendations?

Mr. Hutton

As I said in my answer, we are treating more and more NHS patients as day cases, and that is an excellent way to ensure that the extra investment in the NHS reaches the front line and improves the service for all our constituents. There are now 850,000 more operations being done as day cases than in 1996–97, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman, who always takes a balanced and fair approach, will recognise that we are making good progress in this field.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)

I am sure that the Minister will agree that increasing the proportion of day case surgery is indeed a way of heightening efficiency in the NHS and that leading hospitals are already treating about 75 per cent. of elective in-patient admissions as day cases. Will the Minister therefore tell us why he and his colleagues are discussing—privately, in ministerial meetings—what is referred to as "official data" showing that productivity has fallen steadily since 1997, with a 10 per cent. decrease overall and a 15 to 20 per cent. decrease in health and education? On what statistics are Ministers basing that 15 to 20 per cent. reduction in health productivity? Will the Minister also tell the House why 200,000 finished consultant episodes, which in past years had been used for comparison, have mysteriously disappeared from the statistics in the Department's annual report on hospital activity trends, which he published 10 days ago?

Mr. Hutton

These is only one message that the hon. Gentleman wants to give to the people of the country and to Members of the House, and that is that the NHS is getting worse, but every published indicator reveals that it is getting better. In relation to his point about productivity, it is fair to say that the current measure of productivity fails to take into account some very important things that are going on in the NHS. One example is that we are making more statins—the cholesterol-busting drugs—available to all our constituents. As a result, fewer people who would have gone on to develop coronary heart disease will now need coronary artery bypass grafts and other procedures that we count as an activity in the NHS. So on one measurement, because we are making our constituents healthier, the NHS is said to be becoming less productive. What a ridiculous state of affairs! Anyone who has a reasonable view of these matters would say that the case for looking again at that measure of productivity was overwhelming.