Headlines: January 13th, 2003

The number of people waiting more than a year for treatment in hospital has fallen by more than 20,000 in the last year. The Department of Health says the number of English residents who have waited over 12 months dropped by 3,000 between October and November – the biggest monthly reduction since March last year.The figures for November show 12,500 people have waited more than a year. Six of them have been waiting for more than 15 months for treatment – 3 fewer than in the month before. The total number of patients waiting for treatment in England fell by 9,500 to just under one million and forty-two thousand.

The department says the figures show the Health Service is still on course to meet its target of having no patients waiting more than a year for in-patient treatment by the end of this March.

Welcoming the November 2002 figures, the Health Minister John Hutton said, “These latest figures confirm that we are continuing to make progress in dealing with the public’s number one concern about the NHS.”

While the figures showed a significant fall in the number of people facing a long wait for an operation, Mr. Hutton said, patients were still waiting too long for treatment. “That is why we will continue to make reducing waiting times our number one priority for the NHS. We want to ensure that by 2005 no one is waiting more than six months for treatment and three months for an initial appointment with a consultant,” he added.