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Hospital Waiting Lists

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 24 September 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to ensure waiting lists will not rise in the next 12 months in England. [16662]

We inherited record numbers of patients waiting for treatment from the previous Government. We cannot expect to turn this round overnight. Our immediate priorities are to ensure that the National Health Service deals effectively with emergencies during the winter and that by the end of next March there are no patients waiting more than 18 months for admission to hospital. We are determined to have shorter waiting lists by the end of this Parliament. The wide-ranging action plan for waiting lists and times announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 18 November and the considerable extra resources we have made available to the NHS for this year and next will ensure that we begin to turn the tide.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will estimate the proportion of waiting list initiative funding that has been spent in the private sector in the last three years; and what monitoring is undertaken of clinical standards for the private sector in respect of patients being treated under the waiting list initiative. [17337]

Central funding for the previous Government's waiting list initiative ran from 1987–88 to 1993–94 inclusive. Since then the money has been built into health authorities' recurrent revenue baselines and is no longer centrally earmarked for waiting list initiatives. It is for health authorities, as purchasers, to assess their population's needs and to target resources through contracts to ensure that those needs and national priorities such as waiting list and waiting time targets are met. It is also their responsibility to monitor the clinical standards and quality of care of any hospital with which they contract, whether this is an independent hospital or National Health Service trust.Guidance to health authorities and general practitioner fundholders effective from April 1998 is that they should explore the scope to make maximum cost-effective use of local NHS capacity before thinking about use of private sector provision.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients have died while on waiting lists in each of the last 10 years; and if he will indicate the treatment for which they were waiting. [17343]

Information is collected on removals from waiting lists but this does not differentiate between the various reasons, which include death. Patients may die from any one of a wide range of causes, in common with the rest of the population, while waiting for treatment and the cause may have nothing to do with the condition for which they were on a waiting list.