New Patient Champ To Drive Action To End Waiting

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New patient champion to help end waiting announced as new figures show waiting at record low.

A new champion to put patient views at the heart of efforts to transform the NHS and deliver the Government's target to reduce waiting times by 2008 was announced by Andy Burnham, Health Minister today.

As the Patient and Public Champion, Neil Betteridge, Chief Executive of Arthritis Care, will have an important role understanding and reflecting patient views as policy is implemented across the NHS. He will work closely with local NHS, key stakeholders and patient groups.

The announcement coincides with new figures published today that show ongoing reductions in outpatient and inpatient waiting times, putting the NHS firmly on track to deliver a maximum wait of 18 weeks from referral to start of treatment by the end of 2008.

These figures show that:

- 701,000 patients are waiting for surgery -a decrease of 457,000 since March 1997 and the lowest figure since data was first collected on this basis in September 1987;

- The NHS continues to deliver the 13-week outpatient and 26-week inpatient maximum waiting time standards established in December 2005;

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- Over 99% of patients are waiting less that 11 weeks for their first outpatient appointment and 98% of patients who need surgery are waiting less than 20 weeks.

These improvements are the result of a combination of record investment, the hard work of NHS staff and changes in the way the NHS works.

Andy Burnham said: "Our commitment to improving the NHS means that by 2008 all patients will be assured of faster treatment. Not simply another target, 18 weeks captures the whole patient journey - from referral to start of treatment - with many patients seen even more quickly than that.

"This will be a major achievement for the NHS - making it more streamlined and productive as well as leading to a much better experience for patients - and helps change people's lives by improving care and cutting unnecessary delays.

"I'm delighted to appoint Neil Betteridge as patient champion for this important policy. He has an outstanding track record of speaking up for patients and his appointment underlines how we want the NHS transformed into a truly patient led service."

Neil Betteridge said: "I'm delighted to be asked to take up this important role on behalf of all patients. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for patients and the public to help shape the future delivery of services.

"As the NHS changes, it is crucial that patients are right at the heart of any improvements. My role will be to keep the target focused on people.

"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. For the first time in nearly 60 years, this initiative will I hope bring an end to waiting in the NHS.

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