§ 11. Mr. Gwilym Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the progress in reducing hospital waiting lists in Wales.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ian Grist)
The National Health Service in Wales is treating an increasing number of patients, so that inpatient lists fell in 1986 by 2.6 per cent. and out-patient lists by 5.6 per cent. This is welcome progress. To maintain the momentum I have recently allocated a further £1 16 million to health authorities to help them tackle their worst waiting lists in 1987–88, and the Welsh Office is continuing its collaboration in health authorities' efforts to manage lists more effectively.
§ Mr. Jones
I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend's answer. However, is there not still considerable room for increased efficiency? In the interests of putting patients first, could not much be achieved by computer-based schemes offering patients the opportunity to join the shortest waiting lists, rather than using the nearest hospital, which is the more usual practice?
§ Mr. Grist
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. At present, general practitioners in Wales are made aware, through a bulletin published every six months by my Department, of waiting lists in Welsh health local authorities. From the list, the GP could advise the patient as to the relevant time that he or she might have to wait for treatment. However, like my hon. Friend, I would wish to see the system made more rapid and more easily and widely accessible. I shall draw the attention of the Welsh Office waiting list team to what my hon. Friend has said.
§ Mr. Morgan
Does the Minister agree that waiting lists for the regional specialty of cardiology in Wales have now reached a disastrous level? The waiting list for cardiac arterial surgery in the south Glamorgan area—which serves a wide area of Wales — has now reached 18 months, compared to three months in Southampton. Effectively, all the non-acute cases are never on a waiting list because the 18-month waiting list means that new emergency cases continually take the place of non-emergency cases, so people never reach the operating table.
§ Mr. Grist
That is precisely why there are plans to enhance the facilities for cardiac surgery in Cardiff. I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman in that respect. It would be useful if I were to mention to hon. Members that the health authorities in Wales have been set a target to ensure that by March next year no patient should have to wait more than one month for urgent in-patient treatment; one year for non-urgent in-patient treatment and three months for a first-time out-patient appointment.