The National Health Service is set to meet the March 2003 target of having nobody waiting for more than 12 months for inpatient treatment.The Department of Health says the latest figures show steady progress is being made in reducing long waits for patients. The number waiting for more than a year dropped by 700 in August to stand at just over 18,000, a fall of 59 per cent on the figure a year ago. Just 32 people in England have waited more than 15 months for treatment a fall of almost 11,000 in the last year.
The Department says patients are also being offered more choice. Those waiting more than six months for treatment for heart disease can now opt to go to a hospital in either the private or public sectors, which can carry out the work more quickly. Early next year a similar scheme will operate for patients in London who have waited more than six months for ear, nose and throat treatment and general surgery. This will then be rolled out across the NHS. Early figures suggest 400 patients have so far taken advantage of the coronary scheme since its launch in July.
Health Minister John Hutton said hard work by NHS staff was having a real impact on waiting lists. ” There is a long way to go but reducing waiting for treatment is the public’s number one concern. It is our top priority. The NHS is proving that investment and reform equals results, ” he said.