§ Mr. Stott
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take further action to reduce the length of time people are waiting for admission to hospital; and if she will make a statement.123W
§ Mrs. Castle
I have today issued further guidance on this subject in a circular to all health authorities; and I am arranging for copies of this to be placed in the Library.
The circular is aimed at improving the management of waiting lists and recommends the introduction in all areas of various procedures of good practice already found helpful in some. For the first time statstics will be collected on a national scale relative to the time patients spend on waiting lists—a more significant measurement of the waiting-list problem, in my view, than the actual size of the lists.
The aim is not simply to achieve waiting time reductions by more widespread techniques of good management—although we believe this can result in some areas together with some redeployment of existing resources—but also to identify more positively the absolute shortages in resources that even the best management cannot overcome and which bar the way to further improvements in many areas.
The elimination of these shortages will not be an easy matter, particularly in times of financial restraint, but the Government will give as much positive financial encouragement as they can to enable health authorities to implement small-scale schemes designed to break open identified bottlenecks that are causing long waiting times. As announced to the House, £5 million has already been specially earmarked in the current financial year for schemes of this kind, and provided this is shown to help alleviate waiting lists I shall consider making further special capital allowancing.