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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Sharp fall in hospital wait times
Surgeons in operating theatre (generic)
Wait times for surgery have fallen in many areas
There has been a sharp fall in hospital waiting times in Wales, according to the latest monthly figures.

In the four weeks to the end of February, the number of people waiting more than 18 months for in-patient or day case treatment fell by 42%.

The number of people waiting a year or longer has also dropped by more than 31%.

The Welsh Assembly Government said the fall in waiting times was a "tremendous achievement for the staff".

The latest waiting list figures revealed falling waiting times in several areas across the NHS in Wales.

Treatment targets

The number of people waiting more than 18 months for a first outpatient appointment in the month ending February 2005 fell from 5,485 to 3,381 - a percentage change of 38.4% .

The figures also showed that the number of people waiting more than 12 months for admission to hospital as an inpatient or day case fell from 5,186 to 3,555 - a fall of 31.5%.

Earlier this month, Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons announced that patients in Wales would wait no longer than 26 weeks for treatment after GP referral from 2009.

The target includes the wait as an outpatient, for diagnostic tests and for inpatient or day care treatment.

The target wait for England has been set at a maximum of 18 weeks for treatment by 2008.

Dr Gibbons added that more than 6,000 people had taken up the assembly's second offer scheme - where patients waiting longer than the current 18-month target time can take up treatment in England - and it had had a "huge impact" on waits.

'Tremendous achievement'

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "Waiting times across Wales are continuing to fall.

"This is a tremendous achievement for the staff who are working so hard to bring these long waits down, as well as coping with unprecedented pressures on A&E departments.

"Latest available figures show that half of the patients admitted to hospital for an operation from a waiting list had waited for only 11 weeks."

Other waiting time figures in the latest statistics, included:

  • People waiting more than 10 months for cardiac surgery fell over the month by 12 to nine.

  • The number of people waiting more than 18 months for orthopaedic surgery fell over the month by 17 to 15.

  • The number of people waiting more than four months for cataract surgery rose over the month by two to 35.

  • The number of people waiting more than six months for angiography fell over the month by two to one.

  • The number of people waiting more than eight months for cardiac surgery fell over the month by 23 to 29.

    The Welsh Conservatives said waiting times in the Welsh NHS were still too long.

    Health spokesman Jonathan Morgan said: "This is yet another cruel deception from the Labour Party.

    "Since 1999, waiting lists in Wales have risen by 73%.

    "One in 10 people in Wales are waiting in pain because of Labour's mismanagement of the health service."

    Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas added: "This limited improvement is to be welcomed but considering the vast amount of money spent on health, the people of Wales have a right to expect a great deal more from New Labour."

    Welsh Liberal Democrat assembly leader Mike German called for more to be done to tackle waiting lists.

    He said: "Waiting times of 12 and 18 months are a national scandal. The Labour Assembly Government is simply not doing enough."


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