Parliament Health: Labour accused of fiddling figures

Click to follow
The Independent Online
HOSPITAL WAITING lists for NHS treatment are rising, not falling, the Tories claimed yesterday. Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Health Secretary, accused the Government of "fiddling the figures on a massive scale" to ensure its manifesto commitment to cut waiting lists was met.

Official figures showed that although the headline waiting list for hospital treatment had fallen by 150,000 from 1.3 million to about 1.15 million in the past year, the out-patient waiting list had risen by over 200,000 from 247,000 to 468,000.

"[The Government] has created a subsidiary waiting list, a waiting list to get on the waiting list," said Ms Widdecombe. "They have distorted clinical priorities and operations have disappeared. Frank Dobson has shifted the bulge from people waiting for treatment to people waiting for an out-patient appointment."

Ms Widdecombe added that it would now be Tory policy to ditch headline waiting-list figures as a key indicator of success in the NHS. They would be replaced by waiting-time targets for specific treatment groups, ensuring that patients got the treatment they needed.

Ministers rejected the analysis, pointing out that activity was rising across the NHS, with more patients being seen, and the rise in the out- patient waiting list reflected that.