A target on hospital waiting times in Scotland has been met, with more than 90 per cent of patients treated within 18 weeks or less.

New figures published today show that in December, 92 per cent of patients whose waiting time from referral to treatment could be measured got medical help in this time - up from 82.1 per cent in January last year.

In December 2011, 89,478 patients began treatment within 18 weeks, with 7,700 having to wait longer than this.

The Scottish government has previously set the goal of having at least 90 per cent of patients beginning treatment within this time, with the target coming into effect at the end of last year.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon hailed staff in the NHS for their “tremendous effort” to meet the “radical” new goal.

She added that the introduction of the waiting time target meant there had to be a “complete change” in health service systems.

But she said this was the “best way to ensure patients get the very best quality of care”.

Other figures show that at the end of December, 97.1 per cent of patients had to wait less than 12 weeks for their first outpatient appointment, with 93.3 per cent waiting less than nine weeks for inpatient or day case treatment in hospital.

Meanwhile, 97.2 per cent of patients waited less than six weeks to have one of eight key diagnostic tests carried out.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We know what patients want - quick access to treatment, delivered as locally as possible. That is why I am pleased to confirm that we have delivered on our target of ensuring patients are treated in 18 weeks or less.”

She added: “There has been a tremendous effort across the health service to get us to this point and I would like to congratulate everyone involved. This radical target has required the NHS to completely change internal systems so links are in place for each patient to be seen in the right care setting at the right time.”