HC Deb 27 May 1977 vol 932 cc701-2W
Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has received the report of the Health Services Board on common waiting lists; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Ennals

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secret- ary of State for Wales and I have received from the Health Services Board recommendations on "common waiting lists" which the Board was required by Section 6 of the Health Services Act 1976 to make before 21st May 1977.

In summary the Board's principal recommendations are: Responsibility for admitting patients from waiting lists should remain with consultants; With the exception of emergency admissions for which there is already no essential difference between NHS and private patients, all other private patients should be placed on the same waiting list as comparable NHS patients in the care of the same consultant. The basis on which patients progress up the lists and are selected for admission should be the same for NHS and private patients; The consultant will continue to have regard to factors other than the urgency of the patient's need for clinical treatment as at present eg, domestic and occupational circumstances; the need to balance operation lists. But there should not be any unwarranted distortion of these factors to give private patients earlier admission than comparable NHS patients or vice versa; It will be the responsibility of health authorities to satisfy themselves that the principles are commonly applied and, in discussion with all interested parties, to consider what steps need to be taken to maintain parity in admission arrangements for NHS and private patients; Introduction of common waiting lists should be phased over a one-year period, as flexibly as possible, under local agreement; To remove the time advantage gained by patients who have an early private consultation, a patient's place on a waiting list should normally be related to the date he is first referred to a hospital out-patient clinic or private consultation by his GP; There should be parity of access to diagnostic and other services; There should be a statistical means of demonstrating the equitable working of common lists by comparisons of waiting times for private and NHS in-patients.

The Government welcome the report and share the hope of the Health Services Board that progress may now be made.

In evidence to the Board of Health Departments undertook, before implementing any recommendations they might make, to consult all interested parties. Accordingly the Government are publishing the report today as a Command Paper (Cmnd. 6828) and are inviting health authorities, representatives of the medical, dental and nursing professions and representatives of other health service employees to consider and comment on the Board's proposals by 30th September 1977.

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