§ Mr. Robin Cook
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the percentage increase or decrease in the numbers of people waiting for treatment between March 1987 and September 1989 for(a) general surgery, (b) trauma and orthopaedics, (c) ear, nose and throat and (d) obstetrics and gynaecology; and if he will rank each health authority, giving the greatest increase first and the greatest decrease last.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
[holding answer 22 May 1990]: Figures for waiting lists in themselves are of little value unless considered with figures for waiting times, which are far more important for patients and figures for patient cases which are a much better measure of a unit's activity level. Comparisons between waiting lists in one place and another are also unreliable because of variations in referral practice, the acceptance of patients onto lists and the verification of the lists themselves. Changes in individual waiting lists between two points in time in at district level should also be interpreted with care as large changes can for example be due to errors in the data or transfer of responsibility between districts. However, the information requested will be placed in the Library. Nationally, the in-patient waiting lists for these four clinical specialties fell by 3 per cent. over the period March 1987 to September 1989 from 475,000 to 461,000. Over approximately the same period, the number of in-patient cases remained roughly constant at 2,375,000 per year but the number of day cases rose by over 4 per cent. from 530,000 to 552,000. Since 1979 the total number of in-patient cases in these four specialties has risen by 12 per cent. and day cases by 68 per cent. In-patient waiting lists have fallen by 7 per cent. overall and by 18 per cent. for these four specialties, including by more than a quarter for general surgery and gynaecology over the same period.