To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the number of day patients being treated annually by the National Health Service; and how many were treated in 1979.
Between 1979 and 1988–89 there was an increase in day-case admissions for England—from about 600,000 to just over 1 million, representing a 70 per cent. increase.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that in the Kingston and Esher district health authority, which covers part of my constituency, the increase has been getting even better? During the past two years, the surgical day unit has treated 20 per cent. more patients, and last year it dealt with 5,431 patients. Is that not a sign of increasing efficiency in the unit which bodes well for the work of the NHS trust project team?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. An increase in day surgery is good for patients because they appreciate the chance to have their operations done more quickly and perhaps less invasively, and it is good for the National Health Service because the resources needed to care for the patient coming in for day surgery are clearly fewer. Many hon. Members and their families may have cause to be thankful for day surgery in the coming years—especially, for example, for cataracts, grommets for their children or female sterilisation, three operations now performed by day surgery but which hitherto required a long in-patient stay.
Does my hon. Friend accept that day care represents a cost-effective way of delivering more care to more patients more quickly, provided only—perhaps my hon. Friend can confirm that this is so—that there has been no decrease, but rather an increase, in the number of patients who have been admitted to hospital for operations and other treatment?
I give my hon. Friend that assurance. There has been an improvement in day surgery figures and out-patients and ward attenders—those who go to a ward for minor surgical treatment—have also increased in number, as have in-patients coming in for longer stays. The average length of stay is decreasing, and that is good for patients and for the National Health Service.