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NHS 'not meeting' waiting times

By Channel 4 News, PA Feed

Updated on 06 June 2007

New figures to be published on Thursday will show the Government is struggling to meet ambitious targets on NHS waiting times, according to a leaked e-mail.

The statistics will reveal that some patients are waiting over a year to be treated, the memo published in the Times reveals.

The news follows a More4 News investigation last Friday which revealed that 37,600 people in England wait more than 12 months waiting to go to hospital.

Labour has said that by the end of 2008 nobody, whether an in-patient or an out-patient, should have to wait more than 18 weeks from referral to the start of NHS treatment.

The e-mail contains Department of Health advice to local health service communications managers on how to spin the disappointing figures, the Times reported.

It reportedly reveals that nationally 52% of hospital in-patients are currently waiting longer than 18 weeks.

The e-mail, circulated by a press officer from the South Central Strategic Health Authority, says: "The data will show variations in referral to treatment waiting times across your area by provider and commissioner. It will also show differences by speciality.

"There will be some long waits - of up to, and in excess of, one year in some areas.

"There is a risk that the media's attention will focus around long waits, and make claims that these new, more transparent measures of waiting times undermine the effort to date to tackle waiting in the NHS."

FactCheck: are hospital waiting lists too long?

Is spending a year on a hospital waiting list a distant memory or an all too familiar reality? The FactCheck team crunch the numbers.
- Read the report

Health Minister Andy Burnham said: "It is utter nonsense to suggest that the NHS faces a waiting list crisis. Quite the contrary - waiting times are at a record low, and we are on track to achieving the historic goal of eliminating waiting times by the end of next year."

A Department of Health spokeswoman added: "The Department of Health will on Thursday be publishing for the first time data about the whole patient journey, from GP referral to treatment, and this will further focus the efforts of the NHS on increasing the number of patients being treated within 18 weeks."

These news feeds are provided by an independent third party and Channel 4 is not responsible or liable to you for the same.

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