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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Fall in hospitals' waiting times
Medical generic
Patient waiting time targets are shorter in England than Wales
Labour has claimed a "huge achievement" ahead of the Welsh assembly election in cutting hospital waiting times.

But Tories called it a "scandal" that 60,000 more people were awaiting treatment than in 1999, Plaid Cymru accused Labour of an "awful" record and Lib Dems said the NHS had big problems.

March figures showed 13 patients were waiting over eight months for an outpatients' appointment or treatment.

That was down over 5,000 on the month before, and 26,000 fewer in a year.

All the political parties were examining the statistics closely, with health a major issue before the election in eight days' time, on 3 May.

I am absolutely delighted that Welsh Labour is, as promised, delivering faster treatment times for patients the length and breadth of Wales
Brian Gibbons, Labour

The targets were set by the Labour-run Welsh Assembly Government and stated that by the end of March nobody should be waiting for admission as an inpatient or day case, or for a first outpatient appointment for more than eight months.

The eight-month targets are meant to be another milestone in bringing down waiting times for patients.

In England the aim is to cut the wait to 18 weeks by the end of 2008.

The next target in Wales will be 26 weeks, and that by the end of 2009. At the end of February, 3,545 patients had been waiting more than eight months for an outpatient appointment.

WELSH NHS WAITING LISTS
Waiting over 8 months for inpatient or day case admission:
End of Feb: 2,108
End of March: 3
Waiting over 8 months for first outpatient appointment:
End of Feb: 3,545
End of March: 10
Source: Statistical Directorate, Welsh assembly

The latest figures showed at the end of March, there were 10 patients across Wales waiting more than eight months for an outpatients' appointment, and three patients waiting over eight months for treatment.

Labour said they demonstrated that it had "achieved its objective of nobody waiting more than eight months as outpatients or inpatient day case treatment, except for 13 individuals."

Labour also said the number waiting over eight months fell by 99.9% from December 2006 to the end of March 2007

'Broken promises'

Labour health spokesman Brian Gibbons said: "This is a huge achievement, and I am absolutely delighted that Welsh Labour is, as promised, delivering faster treatment times for patients the length and breadth of Wales."

Dr Gibbons, who has been health minister since 2005, said: "It is also testament to the hard work and dedication of staff within the health service.

"All of this hard work could be put at risk by the plans by the Tories to scrap NHS targets.

Today's figures are the final indicator as to how badly Labour has managed the Welsh NHS
Jonathan Morgan, Conservative

"No maximum waiting time guarantee is a code for hospital waiting times soaring out of control and putting the patient last.

"Contrast this with the Labour pledge that no one will wait more than 26 weeks from referral to treatment by 2009."

But Conservative health spokesman Jonathan Morgan said: "Despite record levels of investment in our National Health Service, it is a scandal that 60,000 more people are waiting for treatment compared to eight years ago.

"Today's figures are the final indicator as to how badly Labour has managed the Welsh NHS. Waiting lists are longer, targets are being missed and promises are being broken.

"The government's obsession with a target-driven culture has done nothing to improve patient care and the speed of treatment, except to interfere in the clinical judgement of our doctors."

Mr Morgan said under a Conservative-run assembly government the NHS would have "freedom, recognising the clinical abilities of our staff," and "less bureaucratic with fewer bodies eating up much-needed resources."

Plaid Cymru's Helen Mary Jones welcomed the drop, but said people were still waiting longer in Wales than in England.

She said Labour had "an awful record when it comes to meeting promises that they have made on health waiting lists," and claimed "any targets they set today will probably be set back, revised or reassessed after 3 May."

Ms Jones said Plaid would ensure every community received the service it needed, stop the proposed hospital closure programme and introduce "wellbeing centres".

Liberal Democrat Mike German said: "I'm very disappointed with the way in which the Labour Party has managed the health service here in Wales.

"We've got a big problem with our ambulances, accident and emergency, doctors' out-of-hours services.

"People just don't know where to turn and how to get the health care they need."




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