I propose to take Questions Nos. 638 and 641 together.
Waiting list figures for the quarter ending December 1998 are not yet available. I am fully aware of the difficult situation of patients who are awaiting different surgical procedures. I have taken a series of measures to improve the waiting times for target specialties, including hip replacements. These include the provision of £20 million for the treatment of patients on waiting lists. This represents an increase of two-thirds over the 1998 figure and is 2.5 times higher than the amount allocated for waiting lists in 1997 by the previous Government; the provision of £9 million to services for older people. This will help to free up acute hospital beds, some of which are occupied at present by patients who cannot be accommodated in sub-acute or rehabilitation facilities; the provision of £2 million to selected accident and emergency services. This will again ensure that acute facilities are more easily available for elective work, including treatments for patients on waiting lists; and, the issuing of a new policy circular and guidelines to all relevant agencies regarding the way in which waiting list initiative should be operated in future.