The government is to abandon hospital waiting list targets as a measure of the effectiveness of the NHS, pledging instead to reduce the time patients wait for treatment.
Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, told NHS managers yesterday that long waiting times, which were "frustrating for staff and distressing for patients", were more important than the number of people waiting.
"There will be no waiting list target, but there will be a concerted drive to reduce waiting times. Priority will be given to those patients with the most serious conditions," he said.
Mr Milburn added that the long-term goal over 10 years was to reduce the delay for any kind of treatment to no more than three months.
The end of the waiting list will be welcomed by many hospitals and NHS managers, who considered it a flawed target. Waiting lists have been a constant problem to governments because of the difficulty in meeting them. Last week it was disclosed that waiting lists had grown by 16,000 in the month before the election campaign.
Stephen Campion, a spokesman for the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, said: "Changing from a measurement of numbers to one of time cannot disguise the very real pressures that face the NHS."Reuse content