§ Mr. Swayne
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance his Department gives to clinicians for the purposes of determining the priority of patients to be treated. 
§ Mr. Hutton
We have made it clear that patients must be treated according to their clinical need and priority. In July 1997 an Executive Letter (EL (97) 42) was issued to the national health service about access to secondary care services. It stated thatclinical priority must be the main determinant of when patients are seen as outpatients or admitted as inpatients.
Since then, additional forms of guidance from the Department on waiting list management and clinical priority have been given to the NHS. "Getting Patients Treated—The Waiting List Action Team Handbook" was issued to all NHS trust chief executives in August 1999 and advises on the order in which patients should be treated.
Recently, the NHS was instructed to use guidance drawn up by the NHS Modernisation Agency called the "Primary Targeting Lists Approach" to assist them in treating patients within the shorter maximum waiting times targets for 2001–02. The guidance states that patients with greatest clinical priority must be treated first and gives NHS organisations the practical advice to treat patients in the right order within the maximum waiting times targets.
The guidance can be found at the following websites:
Name of guidance issued Website address Executive Letter 1997–42 www.doh.gov.uk/publications.comh.html Getting Patients Treated—The Waiting List Action Team Handbook www.doh.gov.uk/wtaction team.htm Primary Targeting Lists Approach www.modennhs.nhs.uk/npat/documents