Skip to main content

Eye Treatments

Volume 202: debated on Tuesday 21 January 1992

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for reducing waiting times in respect of eye treatments; and if he will make a statement.

We are taking vigorous action to reduce waiting times for hospital treatment in all specialties.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, for many years within the referral area of the Plymouth eye infirmary, people have had to wait excessively long periods not only for an initial eye examination but for subsequent treatment? Will my hon. Friend tell us what action is being taken to improve the position in respect of new staff and new facilities and any benefits that might be derived from the new contractual arrangements?

My hon. Friend is right to say that the ophthalmology specialty in Plymouth hospital has had excessive waiting lists. I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the new structures and management priorities of the health service led the health authority to appoint a new ophthalmology consultant last week to provide extra sessions to work through the waiting list. The contracting system to which my hon. Friend referred has made it possible for the health authority to provide extra capacity for the specialty at Exeter hospital which will ensure that the waiting list can be worked off much more quickly than would otherwise be possible. My hon. Friend's constituency experience demonstrates clearly the higher priority now attached to reducing waiting times and the management system that is necessary to deliver that objective.

Is the Minister aware that the new cataract centre at Manchester royal eye hospital is dependent upon private patients to pay the £2 million loan for its refurbishment? Does he agree that that will lead to preferential treatment for private patients and creeping privatisation? Why on earth is his Department so scared of answering questions on this subject?

That question is not for the Government; it is for the hon. Gentleman and his party to explain to his constituents why it is in the interests of the patients of Manchester to remove private patients from NHS hospitals, to deny the NHS revenue that private patients bring and to deny benefits to NHS patients in general.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, whether the Opposition like it or not, waiting lists are going down? Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the doctors, nurses and administrators who have made the reforms, the fundholders and the NHS trusts a success? Will my hon. Friend ask the Opposition whether they will continue to embark upon their policy of abolishing those trusts? If they do not give an answer, will my hon. Friend take the Leader of the Opposition out for an Italian meal?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the deafening silence of the Labour party when last week we announced success in reducing long waits for NHS treatment. The House may be interested to know that, because we were seeking to look at the effect of NHS management reforms over the first six months, we did not draw attention to the fact that the number of people who have been waiting for more than one year on in-patient lists is 37 per cent. down on what it was when we took office in 1979.