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Patient Outcomes

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2012

Last December, we published data against 30 indicators in the new NHS outcomes framework, which has been supported enthusiastically by patients, by professionals and internationally. The data show that for 25 of the new measures, the NHS improved or maintained performance, including MRSA infections being down by half and C. difficile infections being down by 40% since 2008-09. I expect continuing improvement over the coming years, as the focus on outcomes drives change and improvement.

Campaigns such as “Be Clear on Cancer” are invaluable in ensuring the early detection and treatment of serious conditions. Will the Secretary of State do what he can to ensure that there is proper co-operation between charities and local hospitals about the timing of such campaigns, to ensure that the spike in referrals that follows is dealt with as efficiently as possible?

I will indeed ensure that that happens. We work closely with the cancer charities. We are working with them as we roll out the campaign that was piloted in the east of England to encourage the awareness of symptoms and the earlier diagnosis of bowel cancer. I hope that we will ensure that the services, such as endoscopy services, are available to support that.

Is the Secretary of State aware of this week’s report from the distinguished health academic at Exeter university, Dr Mike Williams, which states that his NHS upheaval is putting patient safety at risk and making a Mid Staffordshire-style hospital scandal more likely? Given that, will he assure the House that he will publish the findings of the Mid Staffordshire public inquiry in time to inform the final outcome of the Health and Social Care Bill, if it ever gets through this place?

The right hon. Gentleman should know that the timing of the publication of Robert Francis’s public inquiry is a matter for the inquiry, not for me. It is pretty rich for him, who came to this Dispatch Box to disclaim all responsibility for what happened at Stafford hospital, to accuse us of being responsible for something like that. Something like that will not happen because our plans focus on quality for patients, which he failed to do.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the report today that more than 1.3 million diabetes patients have not been offered vital tests. Does that not re-emphasise the need for a plan post-2013, when the national service framework for diabetes comes to an end?

Yes, indeed. I share my hon. Friend’s view about the importance of this publication. For the first time, we are publishing the data so that we are absolutely transparent about performance in this and other areas. It is wrong that there are primary care trusts that are failing to meet the nine standards of care that are set out. That is why we published the atlas of variation. By focusing on that variation and through the commissioners’ responsibility to meet the standards, not least in the publication of the quality standards, we will deliver improving standards across the country.

But the Secretary of State must surely be aware that, for seven weeks running since the new year, the NHS has missed its target for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours at A and E. That is precisely what Labour warned would happen when this Government downgraded the waiting times standard. Is it not clear that he has lost control over waiting times while he focuses on the largest top-down reorganisation in the NHS’s history? That is why he is losing public trust on the NHS. He should focus on what matters to people and drop the Health and Social Care Bill.

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that the average time that in-patients waited for treatment at the time of the last election was 8.4—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked a question and I am telling him the answer. The average time was 8.4 weeks. That has gone down to 7.7 weeks. For out-patients, the average waiting time was 4.3 weeks at the time of the election. That has gone down to 3.8 weeks. The number of patients waiting for more than 18 weeks at the time of the election was—

I made it very clear after the election that, on clinical advice, we would relax the 98% target to 95%. Patients are being seen within four hours in A and E far more consistently in England than in Wales, where there is a Labour Government. Let me remind the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) that we have more than halved the number of patients who wait more than a year for treatment since the election.