'Long way to go to meet 18-week wait'

The DoH has released figures showing that 48 per cent of patients are receiving treatment within 18 weeks, but the British Medical Association (BMA) has said there is still a lot to do to meet patients’ needs.

Health minister Andy Burnham has announced that nearly half of all patients who started their treatment in March 2007 have waited no more than 18 weeks for their treatment from the initial referral from their GP.

Mr Burnham said: 'The figures show the NHS firmly on course to achieve the historic goal to end waiting in its 60th anniversary year.

'These statistics show that we still have a challenge ahead of us to meet the highest standards, but overall they are hugely encouraging.'

Chairman of the BMA's consultants' committee Dr Jonathan Fielden said: 'Doctors were told earlier this year to "slow down" and operations were cancelled so that that hospitals could balance their books. The Government should free clinicians, both GPs and consultants, to deliver the best value they can rather than fetter them with central targets.'

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