04/04/2003

Hospital waiting lists fall by 26,000

The latest figures show the total number of patients waiting for a hospital operation has fallen by almost 26,000 with the number waiting over a year having consistently fallen for a year and a half.

According to the government, the NHS is on track to hit its target, that of no patient waiting more than a year for inpatient treatment, by the end of March.

The statistics reveal that there were only 6,700 patients waiting over 12 months for inpatient treatment at the end of February, 2,800 fewer than the previous month and 19,100 fewer than the same period last year.

The overall inpatient waiting list fell by 25,800 during February to 1.027m. The inpatient waiting list is 23,000 lower than this time last year, and over 130,600 lower than in March 1997.

Investment in the NHS has increased the annual budget by over £5 billion a year. The bulk of this extra resource has been spent on training and employing extra staff, investing in more advanced equipment and new groundbreaking drugs as well as building up extra capacity so the NHS can treat more patients more quickly and to a higher standard.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said: "After decades when waiting times rose in the NHS they are now coming down. There is a long way to go but the NHS Plan is on schedule.

"With sustained investment now taking hold in the NHS in the next year it will come down again to a maximum of nine months - on course to hit the NHS Plan target of six months by December 2005. The NHS is turning the corner."

The figures also revealed there were seven English residents waiting over 15 months for treatment. The breaches are solely concentrated at four Trusts, all of which have action plans in place to address the problem.

(GMcG)

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