Published: 30/01/2003, Volume II3, No. 5840 Page 6

Increased capacity, more available beds and a higher number of doctors in hospitals are not necessarily linked to smaller waiting lists, according to a paper published in the British Medical Journal.

The study, produced by the University of Bristol's department of social medicine, suggests that a simple mismatch between supply and demand is not the reason for large waiting lists. The paper looked at patients waiting more than six months for day case and elective surgery in the specialisms of general surgery; ear, nose and throat; ophthalmics; tauma and orthopaedics.Trusts with the most patients with prolonged waits had more available beds, and for some specialties a higher bed occupancy rate. It also discovered that trusts with more consultant surgeons and anaesthetists had more patients with long waits.

The study found that the most efficient way to ensure hitting the government target - that no patient should wait more than six months for an operation by 2005 - would be to focus attention on the minority of trusts with the most problems with their waiting lists.