John Appleby (Data briefing, HSJ, 22 February) highlighted the 'strange' improvements there have been in reducing the number of people on NHS waiting lists between 1997 and 2006.

John Appleby (Data briefing, HSJ, 22 February) highlighted the 'strange' improvements there have been in reducing the number of people on NHS waiting lists between 1997 and 2006. This was from 1,158,000 to 785,000, while the amount of elective activity dealing with people on waiting lists has fallen. This fact has been known for some time, and was raised by David Amess during a health select committee inquiry in December 2005.

Even more interesting are the figures that Mr Appleby did not provide. The number of people added to NHS waiting lists each year (known as decisions to admit), has fallen between 1997 and 2005 by around 325,000. What is surprising is not that the number on waiting lists has fallen, but that more has not been made of this convenient fall in decisions to admit.

One possible explanation is that all this work is now being done in GP surgeries or hospital outpatient departments. But what evidence is there for this? If it were true, perhaps GPs are even more deserving of their recent increases in salary.

Sean Boyle, senior research fellow, LSE Health & Social Care, London School of Economics