Headlines: May 17th, 2004

Eight private treatment centres have been signed up by the NHS to carry out over 19,000 operations annually, starting in March 2005. They will perform a mixture of general surgery, trauma and orthopaedics operations. Most of the staff employed in the centers will come from outside the NHS.There are currently 26 NHS-run Treatment Centres and 2 Treatment Centres run by the private sector. By the end of 2005, the Department of Heath expects that there will be a total of 46 NHS-run Treatment Centres and 34 run by the private sector.

The NHS has succeeded in reducing the longest waiting times. In March 2000, 126,388 people were waiting for hospital treatment for longer than 9 months. In March 2004, only 48 people were. The total waiting list is at its lowest for over fifteen years. But the average waiting time for hospital treatment is little changed. The average is now 10.2 weeks, down slightly on the previous year. While some treatments, such as cataract operations, have seen falling average waiting times, for others, such as hip operations, waiting times have increased.

It is planned that by the end of 2005 treatment centers will deliver 250,000 operations per year. But they will only make a limited contribution to the output of the NHS because this represents less than 5 per cent of NHS elective operations.