36 Dr. Stress
asked the Minister of Health whether he has noted the variation in the average waiting time, after inclusion in the waiting list, for patients who require major surgery for tuberculosis, cancer of lung and bronchus or bronchiectasis; and what steps he proposes to take to shorten the waiting time, particularly in Wales.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
Yes, Sir. The length of waiting time is due primarily to the rapid increase in demand for thoracic surgery and the comparative shortage of thoracic surgeons and trained theatre staff. The number of surgeons has increased by 50 per cent, over the last three years and is likely to increase further; and the annual number of patients dealt with by thoracic surgery departments rose by over 18 per cent, in 1953 and has nearly doubled since 1949.
§ Dr. Stross
Is the Minister aware that in Wales, for example, the waiting period for tuberculosis before treatment is offered is not one year but up to two years, and for bronchiectasis up to five years, which is rather a long time? Will he increase the number of appointments of consultants for this speciality so that geographical considerations do not determine whether people live or die?
§ Mr. Macleod
We are doing all we we can to iron out the serious discrepancies between the regions. One of the methods is by consultation between the senior assistant medical officers to see whether a region, where the situation is comparatively good, can help another, where it may be nothing like so good. The hon. Member will know from his own experience that this problem has become much more urgent, because the enormous advances in surgery in the last few years has meant that so many cases are amenable to operation.
§ Mr. Hastings
Will the Minister consider concentrating cases in need of chest surgery in a relatively large hospital so that so much time shall not be wasted by surgeons travelling from hospital to hospital, and better work may be done because of the treatment that trained staff can give? I believe that a lot could be done in that way.
§ Mr. Macleod
I should like to consider the implications of that suggestion. It is a far-reaching proposal.
§ Mr. Shurmer
In view of the success gained from the sending of a number of patients to Switzerland and the length of the waiting time in this country for treatment, will the Minister consider extending the Swiss scheme? There is accommodation there for patients.