Shortest hospital waiting times ever in the North East

Health Ministers congratulate staff of hospitals in the North East

The NHS now has the shortest waiting times since its records began, Labour Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced today. 

New data shows that in North East and across England the NHS has met its target to treat patients within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral by their GP – an achievement which was unimaginable 12 years ago.

In March 1997, there were 56,363 people on the waiting list for inpatient treatment at the hospitals across the North East region. Today, nobody has to wait more than 18 weeks for treatment, and most waits are much shorter than this.

Alan Johnson MP, Labour’s Health Secretary said:

“Twelve years ago it was not uncommon for patients to have to wait well over 18 months for an operation.  Achieving the shortest waits since NHS records began is a tremendous achievement for staff and I congratulate them for all their hard work.  Meeting the standard nationally five months before it came into effect, shows the commitment of the whole health service to improving patients’ experiences.

“This has improved the lives of millions of people.  Every year the NHS carries out 60,000 hip operations, in the last two years the waiting time for this procedure has fallen from around 30 weeks to 12 weeks.  It’s not just patients that benefit from this, clinicians also value the difference it makes to the quality of care they provide.”


Notes for Editors

1. NHS factsheets show that in March 1997 there were 56,363 patients on the waiting list for inpatient treatment at Hospitals covered by the North East NHS Strategic Health Authority:

2. Nationally the NHS met its commitment six months ago to ensure that 90% of patients who require admission to hospital and 95% of patients not needing admission, start treatment within 18 weeks of referral from their GP.  Today’s figures confirm that every part of the country is now meeting this standard. 

3. Time spent waiting is important to patients which is why the NHS made it a priority to reduce waiting times.  This has made a significant difference to the treatment experience of millions of patients. For example:

• Over 250,000 patients have a cataract removed every year.  The average referral to treatment time for these patients has reduced by half, from 20 weeks in March 2007 to 10 weeks in January 2009

• Hardness of hearing and deafness affect the lives of large numbers of people.  The NHS treats over 400,000 patients referred directly to audiology services every year where the average wait from referral to treatment is now 5.3 weeks.

• NHS waiting times are the lowest they have ever been since NHS records began, 92.9% of admitted patients and 97.3% of non-admitted patients were treated within 18 weeks in January.

• The median wait from referral to inpatient treatment was 8.6 weeks and from referral to outpatient treatment was 4.6 weeks.

4. It’s not just patients who are feeling the benefits of 18 weeks, clinicians also value the difference it makes to their patients and the quality of care they provide.