Just under half of all patients are waiting less than 18 weeks to receive treatment, according to the first set of government figures that record waiting times from GP referral.
The new statistics, designed to measure progress towards next year's 18-weeks maximum wait target, show that 48 per cent of patients beginning treatment in March this year had waited fewer than 18 weeks since seeing a GP. This is an improvement on the 36 per cent 'baseline' snapshot figure measured in December last year. The maximum wait of no more than 18 weeks for treatment, from GP referral, must be achieved by the end of next year. The new-look waiting figures have also been broken down into treatment areas for the first time, and they show that only 25 per cent of orthopaedic patients treated in March had been treated within 18 weeks, the lowest among all specialties. This confirms that orthopaedics is potentially the biggest barrier to hitting the 18-weeks target. The new 18-weeks patient and public champion, Neil Betteridge, who is also chief executive of Arthritis Care, said work towards the target should dramatically alter care for people with chronic conditions. He said: 'Currently many people with long-term conditions, such as arthritis, are in long queues, and the wrong queues – that's why the government has set the 18-weeks target.'
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