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NHS Operations

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2006

5. When he last met the Secretary of State for Health to discuss the number of Welsh patients waiting more than six months for an NHS operation in an English hospital. (81352)

I regularly meet Health Ministers and the Assembly Health Minister. The Assembly Government are investing record amounts in the NHS in Wales and delivering real improvements in the standard of services to all Welsh patients.

I thank the Minister for his answer. On 30 November last year, the Prime Minister stated that no one would wait more than six months for an NHS operation. The latest figures show that 120 English patients have been waiting for more than six months at an English hospital, yet 786 Welsh patients have been waiting at an English hospital for more than six months. Clearly, the Government’s claim is completely false, but there also appears to be discrimination against Welsh patients.

The latest figures show that 768 Welsh patients have been waiting more than six months for treatment in an English hospital, and that represents a significant reduction of 14 per cent. on the previous year. The number of out-patients waiting for treatment in English hospitals has fallen by 43 per cent. Waiting times are plummeting throughout Wales. We are meeting targets on reducing waiting times, and that is a result of the massive investment that is now going into the health service in Wales. We will be spending £5 billion this year, which represents a rise of over 80 per cent. since 1999. That is £1,600 a person. We now have 450 more consultants and 7,300 more nurses, and our budget for new hospital buildings will go up to £309 million in the next financial year. That is a record of which we are proud. Waiting times are coming down significantly, and it is a record of real achievement.

Many of my constituents are treated in English hospitals. Will my hon. Friend give me an absolute assurance that he will support my right to ask questions on their behalf about their treatment? Will he assure me that in no circumstances he will take that right away, which is what Conservative Members have suggested?

As my hon. Friend is well aware, the Conservatives intend to treat Welsh and Scottish MPs as second-class citizens in the House. I can assure him that he will still be able to put questions to the Department of Health and the Wales Office, which would not be the case under the Opposition, who are proposing to create a second tier of second-class MPs. That is outrageous.

The target waiting time for English patients at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital at Gobowen is six months. For Welsh patients it is 12 months, so will the Minister please explain why my constituents, who pay their taxes and national insurance contributions at exactly the same rate as English patients, should be expected to wait in pain for six months longer?

As I stated to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone), significant and massive investment is aimed specifically at reducing waiting times. Where we have an arrangement with an English hospital, discussions are ongoing about waiting times, the costs of operations and so forth, but I can assure the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) and his constituents that much of this year’s £5 billion going into the NHS is targeted on reducing waiting times. Waiting times are plummeting in Wales, as they are in England. Indeed, it is a record of achievement.