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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Waiting list still tops one million
Operating theatre
Waiting list and time figures have been released
The number of people waiting to be admitted to an NHS hospital in England remains above the one million mark.

Latest official figures show that the number of people on the in-patient waiting list fell by 7,700 in the month of February to 1,050,400.

However, over the previous 12 months the figure actually increased by 17,600 (1.7%).

Labour promised before the 1997 general election to cut waiting lists by 100,000.

Since March 1997 the number on the waiting list has fallen by 107,600.

Waiting times

The latest figures show the length of time people have to wait for hospital care has fallen sharply.

At the end of February 25,800 people had been waiting more than a year - a drop of 12.7% on the previous month.

The figure was 19,700 (43.3%) lower than in February 2001, when the total was 45,500.

At the end of February this year, just three patients had been waiting for longer than 18 months.

A Department of Health spokesman said this indicated that NHS trusts were "on target" to meet the Government's pledge that by the end of March no patient should have to wait longer than 15 months for in-patient treatment or six months for an out-patient appointment.

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "It's no good simply reducing the number of stable patients waiting over one year if that is at the expense of clinically urgent patients having to wait longer when at risk.

"The government must drop its target-oriented approach to the NHS and return to a patient-oriented approach.

"The first thing to do would be to provide more funding for social services to release lost NHS capacity caused by bed-blocking, and to end the scandal of elderly patients suffering delayed discharge."

The Conservatives said they were not commenting on the figures out of respect for the period of mourning for the Queen Mother.

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Health
Waiting lists top public concern
15 Feb 02 | Health
NHS targets proving tough to meet
28 Dec 01 | Health
Long waits 'will continue'
20 Dec 01 | Health
The great waiting list fiddle
26 Jul 01 | Health
'Bunions put ahead of hip ops'
26 Jul 01 | Health
Ministers blamed for NHS failings
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