I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 94, 100, 126, 138, 145 and 146 together.
The figures requested by the Deputies are set out in the tables which will be circulated to them. They relate to 30 September 1998, the latest period for which information is available, and to 30 September and 30 June 1997.
I have recently taken a range of significant initiatives to address the issue of waiting lists and waiting times for public in-patients. 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 by the previous Government for waiting lists in 1997; the provision of £9 million for 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 those on waiting lists and the issuing of a new policy circular and guidelines to all relevant agencies regarding the way in which the waiting list initiative should be operated in future.
The policy circular and guidelines, issued by my Department on 7 January 1999, outline revised and updated procedures in relation to improving the liaison and communication arrangements between acute hospitals and general practitioners; ensuring a more effective management of waiting lists at acute hospital level through the appointment of an implementation group and a patient co-ordinator/bed manager in each hospital; improved management of out-patient waiting lists and clarifying the criteria for inclusion on a public in-patient waiting list.
The policy circular reiterates the targets of treating adults in target specialities within 12 months and of treating children in target specialties within six months. It clarifies the criteria for including patients on a public waiting list but, contrary to some recent reports, it makes no substantive changes to these criteria.