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Monday, 29 November, 1999, 13:17 GMT
Hospital waiting lists fall
waiting room Hospital waiting lists continue to fall

The number of people waiting for hospital treatment has fallen - but there are more people facing waits of over a year, latest figures show.

The government welcomed a fall of 5,100 in the number of people on hospital waiting lists during October, saying ministers were on target to meet their pledge of a 100,000 cut before the next election.

But the figures released on Monday also show that 1,000 more patients - up to 51,100 - are waiting over 12 months for treatment, compared to the September total.

The latest fall brings the overall number of people waiting for treatment in England to 1,079,400, which is 79,000 down on the figure the government inherited from the previous Conservative administration.

Excellent news

Health minister John Denham said: "These figures are excellent news. We are well on target to achieve our commitment to have reduced them by 100,000 by the end of the Parliament.

"We said that as waiting lists come down, waiting times would also fall. That is exactly what is happening. On average, patients are waiting two weeks less than they were 18 months ago."

However, he issued a warning that further falls were unlikely over the next two months as the NHS faces up to winter pressures and the increased demands from flu and the Christmas and New Year holiday.

"Hospitals are sensibly planning to give priority to winter pressures over the long holiday period," he said.

A regional breakdown shows there was no fall in the Northern and Yorkshire area, while 1,300 people came off the waiting list in the North West during October.

The government announced on November 25 that the number of people waiting for outpatient appointments had increased by 2.3% over the past year, but clamed it was "turning the corner".

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See also:
01 Sep 99 |  Health
Doubts raised over hospital waiting lists
08 Nov 99 |  Health
NHS waiting lists fall by 4,300
26 Aug 99 |  Health
Outpatient waiting times on the rise
17 Oct 99 |  Health
Waiting list pledge stays - Milburn

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