Published: 16/01/2003, Volume II3, No. 5838 Page 4

The NHS is on course to cut maximum inpatient waiting times to 12 months by the end of March, the Department of Health says.

Latest figures from November show that 12,500 patients were waiting a year or more for treatment; 3,000 less than in October, and 20,500 less than a year ago.

The government has also hit targets set in 1997 to abolish mixedsex wards in 95 per cent of hospital wards by the end of 2002.

On Monday, junior health minister Lord Hunt said the target had been achieved in over 98 per cent of wards, excluding intensive care units, high-dependency units, coronary care units, accident and emergency, surgical assessment wards/admissions wards and children's wards.