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NHS Constitution

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2012

5. What recourse patients have when denied facilities to which they are entitled under the NHS constitution. (95316)

The patient may complain either to the local organisation that provides the service or to the primary care trust. If it proves impossible to resolve the complaint locally, the complainant has the right to ask the health service ombudsman to look into their case. They have the right also to make a claim for judicial review if they think that they have been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body.

In the short time that I have been a Member, I have had to challenge my local trust over its policies on cancer drugs, metabolic surgery, IVF and a raft of other issues in order to get my constituents the treatment that their doctors say they need. When will all NHS patients in Portsmouth and elsewhere be able to have treatment based on clinical need?

My hon. Friend’s constituents are fortunate to have such a vigilant MP who has taken up their individual cases. Patients have the right to expect local decisions on the funding of drugs and treatments to be made rationally, following proper consideration of the evidence. I suggest that she, like many other Government Members, will not be going out to march to preserve the PCTs, which often make flawed decisions.

Has the Minister seen an article today by the respected journalist Polly Toynbee—[Laughter.] Respected by the Prime Minister—[Hon. Members: “Stop laughing.”] I am not laughing at all—

On a very serious issue, a waiting list clerk of 17 years has just resigned because she was asked to adopt a range of devious methods to make sure that people coming up to the 18-week target for treatment were taken off lists. Does the Minister understand that patients will not always know whether they have had proper treatment, and that it will be far too late to refer them to an ombudsman at some later date?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I am devastated to say that I have not seen the article to which she refers, but I am sure that I will. The Department has made it very clear to the NHS that clinical priority is and remains the main determinant of when patients should be treated. When I was in opposition I made various visits to various hospitals and saw them fiddling around at the edges, with admin staff forced to do things that they did not want to do, in order to tick boxes for the previous Government.

Right. Can we now speed up a bit? We have a lot to get through, and I should like to accommodate the interests of colleagues, so everybody needs to tighten up.