The numbers of patients waiting for hospital treatment, which were released quietly last night by the Department of Health, are slightly worse than those issued this week by Labour.
Figures for the three months from April to the end of June show that 22,789 men, women and children joined the queue to bring the total to 1,017,763.
While the number waiting is embarrassingly large, the true measure of the Government's success in reforming the NHS is how long patients have to wait. The new figures show that over the quarter, compared with the early part of 1993, the proportion of people waiting for more than a year grew by
15.7 per cent to 65,465.
But Dr Brian Mawhinney, Minister for Health, using a different calculation and comparing the June quarter with the same time last year, said the figures showed the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment was down by 17,000. 'It is the time that people wait that matters, not the total number waiting.'
He said that half of all admissions to hospital were immediate. Of those admitted from waiting lists, half were admitted within five weeks, nearly 75 per cent within three months and 98 per cent within one year.
Dr Mawhinney said that for every 100 patients treated in the year before the reforms, the NHS expects to treat about 116 this year.
He added that for more than 20 years the number of people waiting for treatment in any year had remained at about 10 per cent
of those who received treatment in NHS
Dr Mawhinney said they were providing an extra pounds 39m in the current year 'to make further progress'.
This year the NHS regional health authorities had set targets for waiting times to first out-patient appointments, and were 'in particular tackling troublespots where maximum waiting times for outpatient appointments are unacceptably high'. This would provide a base for securing further improvements, he said.
The Department of Health said last night that reasons for the increase in numbers on the lists included the NHS being able to treat more conditions and the 'ever increasing demands' made on the service as it improved.
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