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Charter Objectives

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 19 November 1997

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5.

If Her Majesty's Government plan to provide for penalties or sanctions for non—compliance with charter objectives; and if he will make a statement. [15094]

We are committed to relaunching the charter programme so that it meets the needs and wishes of people who use public services on a daily basis. That is why we are currently consulting on how best to do this, including looking at issues of compliance. Details of the new programme will be published as part of the better government initiative.

Are Ministers aware that the patients charter, to which the Government are committed, says:

"From April 1995 the NHS is broadening the 18-month guarantee"—
that last word is in bold print—
"of admission into hospital to cover all admissions into hospital."
When the Government took office, there were 155 people for whom there was no treatment in 18 months and, yesterday, we learned that there were 818 people for whom there was no treatment in 18 months. As a result of the guarantee being broken, will there be compensation for the individuals affected, will they be admitted to hospital, or is the guarantee—it is much more important than a pledge—worthless in terms of guarantees about NHS treatment under this Government?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health in which he likened turning round the situation on waiting lists to turning round a super-tanker. The previous Government left a dreadful legacy, and that is why my right hon. Friend and the Government have taken immediate action, including the provision of £269 million this year. They have appointed a waiting list action team, led by Stephen Day, with task groups in each of the eight regions to ensure that by next March we have looked at that 18-month limit and are turning round the huge lists that were bequeathed to us by the last Government.