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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 10:36 GMT
Health secretary visits city A&E
Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said NHS staff show dedication and commitment
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has visited Stirling Royal Infirmary's accident and emergency department.

The visit has come a month after the health authority changed the way waiting times are counted.

A new system known as "clocking" has been introduced to ensure patients are given treatment within 18 weeks.

According to the Scottish Government, anecdotal evidence from all of Scotland's health boards shows waiting time targets are being met.

Ms Sturgeon used the visit to meet staff working in A&E and a new clinical assessment unit.

Under the new clocking system, each NHS Forth Valley patient will be given a start time and a guarantee that they will be treated within 18 weeks.

The "clock" will only stop if a patient becomes unavailable for treatment or if they are not fit enough to undergo an operation.

Reasonable notice

When this happens the clock will recommence when the patient becomes available for treatment.

The new procedure, which is being introduced nationally, places a responsibility on people to turn up for appointments or give reasonable notice when they are unable to attend.

About 5,000 people a year fail to turn up for outpatient appointments in NHS Forth Valley.

Hospitals will also be obliged to give patients reasonable notice of appointments and will offer two alternative dates.

If a patient cancels, the waiting time will be counted from the day of cancellation.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I want to thank staff across the NHS for their dedication and commitment to delivering high quality healthcare for the people of Scotland.

"The progress that is being shown across a wide range of targets is only possible through the goodwill and effort of everyone working in the health service.

"It is extremely positive news that patients are now being treated more quickly than ever before.

"This will make a real difference to them and their families as they cope with the demands of being unwell."

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