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Waiting Times

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made towards meeting his targets of reducing waiting times to (a) a maximum of six months by the end of 2005 for in-patients and (b) a maximum of three months by 2005 for out-patients. [10545]

Mr. Hutton: In order to achieve maximum waiting times of six months for in-patients and three months for out-patients by 2005, shorter maximum waiting times are being phased. This year the national health service is working towards reducing the maximum in-patient waiting time of 18 months now to 15 months and the waiting time standard for a first out-patient appointment of over six months now to a maximum of six months by the end of March 2002. In-patient waiting times will continue to fall on a staged basis each year from 18 months through to 15, 12, nine down to six months. Waiting times for a first out-patient appointment will also fall from six months, to five, four, then eventually three months by 2005.