Scotland's 18 week referral-to-treatment target has been extended to around 100,000 patients annually who were not previously covered.

Public health minister Shona Robison announced it would now apply to referrals from consultants and from specialist nurses, ophthalmic opticians and orthoptists.

The waiting time target, planned to be met in Scotland by 2011, previously only applied to referrals from GPs, dentists and optometrists.

The Scottish government yesterday published new principles and definitions for the 18 week standard, which it estimated would include another 100,000 patients each year.

Swift access

Ms Robison said: "These new definitions will significantly increase the number of patients who will for the first time be covered by a waiting time standard.

"This is part of the Scottish government's commitment to ensure patients get swift access NHS treatment.

"Thirty thousand patients who had previously been on 'hidden waiting lists' have already been brought within our waiting times standards.

"We know that patients across Scotland are already benefiting from the advances which have been made in reducing waiting times over the last year or so."

Read the new 18-week definitions