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Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 24 September 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what measures he has proposed for the NHS to ensure that the interests of pensioners are not overlooked, with particular reference to (a) hip and other joint operations and (b) bed blocking. [16105]

While the National Health Service in Wales does not discriminate against pensioners, who receive access to services on the same basis as other patients, I am keen that the interests of elderly people are not overlooked. I stressed the point when announcing recently the provision of an extra £9.5 million this year for the NHS in Wales. Whilst I urged the Service to use the money to improve their emergency services, reduce the need for people to be admitted to hospital and reduce delays in discharging patients, I stressed that Trusts must not forget their elective surgery obligations.The Patient's Charter guarantees that

"a patient will receive a hip or knee or a cataract operation within 18 months of being referred to their doctor".

However, this guarantee embraces the total patient population and does not target any one group. Latest figures provided by Health Authorities show that there were 35 breaches to this guarantee during the last quarter—this is an improvement from the June quarter when there were 85 breaches. As yet we do not know where the breaches lie, but this will be thoroughly investigated.