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NHS waiting lists down by a third

NHS waiting lists have fallen by a third in six years, according to NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp.

But, the Liberal Democrats have also issued a new report on the health service drawing attention to what they claim are unacceptable "hidden waits".

Delivering his annual report on the health service, Sir Nigel said there was "sustained improvement" across the NHS, and there were falls in the number of premature deaths and increasing patient satisfaction rates.

According the report, there has been a 12 per cent reduction in the number of patients on the waiting lists in the last year (35 per cent down since 1999), waiting times are down and delayed discharges from hospitals are down a third on last year.

Sir Nigel also pointed to a 12 per cent fall in cancer death rates since 1998 and a 27 per cent fall in coronary heart death rates between 1995 and 2003.

He said: "In the summer, I said that if the NHS was a business, our share price would be rising. At the end of 2004 I have not changed my mind because we are hitting our key targets and our surveys show that patient satisfaction levels are very high.

"Extra investment and the reforms we have implemented are paying real dividends. We are making fantastic progress at reducing waiting times for treatment, both in primary and secondary care."

Health Secretary John Reid said he wished to congratulate NHS staff for their "magnificent effort during 2004" and stressed: "In no way are we complacent about what we still need to do. In 2005 I want the NHS to sustain this performance and also to begin targeting other areas where people are waiting for treatment, for example during the diagnostic stage of the patient journey through the NHS."

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