Published: 20/06/2002, Volume II2, No.5810 Page 10

A database to allow patients to access treatment in hospitals with the shortest waiting lists will be up and running by the end of the year, the Scottish health minister has pledged.

The national waiting times database is Scotland's answer to tackling the problem of lengthening waiting times, which have increased by a week since 1999 when devolution took effect.

Witnessing the first public demonstration of the prototype last week, health and community care minister Malcolm Chisholm said: 'The database will enable the best possible use of capacity across the NHS in Scotland, help identify and shift bottlenecks and should even out the inconsistencies in waiting times across Scotland.'

A consultation has been launched into the content of the prototype, which is web-based and intended to allow queries to be made by GPs in conjunction with their patients.

Scottish Secretary of the Institute of Healthcare Management Donald McNeill said: 'I think that this system will only have an effect on the margins because most people will still want to be treated close to home.'