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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 12:51 GMT
Waiting list fall 'only temporary'

Patients The waiting list is set to rise

Health Secretary Alan Milburn has admitted that a fall in the number of people waiting for operations in England will be reversed in coming months.

Latest official figures show that the number of people on the waiting list fell by 8,000 in November to 1,071,400.

Flu nightmare
However, Mr Milburn has issued a warning that he expects queues to lengthen in the next few months in the wake of the current intense pressure on the NHS.

Hospitals around the country have cancelled routine surgery in the last two weeks as they struggled to cope with an outbreak of flu.

A seasonal rise in waiting lists is expected over the next couple of months
Health Secretary Alan Milburn
The Government has pledged to reduce waiting lists in England by 100,000 below the figure it inherited from the Tories by the next election.

Waiting lists are now 87,000 below the figure inherited from the Tories in May 1997.

The number of people waiting more than a year also fell by 1,700, according to the figures.

Mr Milburn said: "This is an excellent achievement by the NHS.

"It means we are well on target to fulfil our promise to reduce waiting lists by 100,000 by the end of this parliament.

"A seasonal rise in waiting lists is expected over the next couple of months, reflecting the planned priority the NHS has given to winter emergency admissions.

"This will not affect the achievement of the waiting list target."

Doctors and opposition parties have claimed that the Government drive to slash queues has increased consultants' workload and led to a rise in the number of people waiting to see a doctor.

Later the Prime Minister's official spokesman welcomed the waiting list figures, saying: "Despite the extra pressure from flu, we are on track to meet the waiting list pledge."

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See also:
01 Sep 99 |  Health
Doubts raised over hospital waiting lists
17 Oct 99 |  Health
Waiting list pledge stays - Milburn
29 Nov 99 |  Health
Hospital waiting lists fall

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