Published: 14/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5927 Page 8

Health minister John Hutton has admitted that it would take 92 years for one person to tackle just two of the monthly data collection returns the NHS has to complete in a year.

In a written ministerial statement to the Commons, Mr Hutton revealed how long it would take one person to make the situation reports to the Department of Health and monthly management information returns required of the NHS during one year.

Oddly, his answer came in response to a request from Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow to estimate the most recent total annual cost to the NHS of the information. Mr Burstow commented: 'It is wrong that NHS staff are drowning in paperwork which can keep them away from frontline duties. Information should only be collected by the DoH if it is strictly necessary'.

One policy expert speculated that the government may be being deliberately sensationalist about the scale of NHS red tape now in order to be able to claim in future that it has successfully cut bureaucracy.