Headlines: July 2nd, 2002

NHS Patients in England who have been waiting more than six months for heart surgery will be offered the chance to fast track their treatment at an alternative hospital – whether public or private sector, at home or abroad.The new option is expected to affect 800 to 1000 patients each month on current waiting figures. To start, 2,500 patients who have been waiting longer than six months are being invited to discuss the new option with an independent Patient Care Adviser.

Those who choose to wait at their local hospital are being guaranteed they will not wait more than 12 months in total.

The Government says the choice is no longer between waiting longer for treatment or paying for treatment.

The new scheme comes on top of steady progress in improving treatment for coronary heart disease patients. In March 2000, more than a thousand people waited more than a year for heart surgery. Today no one waits that long and the average wait for a heart operation in England is 18 weeks.

In 1996 34,000 heart operations were carried out. At the end of last year it was more than 49,000. The number of cardiologists has risen by 23% since 1999 and the number of surgeons has increased by 12%.