this week

A 400-page handbook on tackling waiting lists is set to land on managers' desks this week.

The launch of Getting Patients Treated follows the creation of a£30m outpatient performance fund by health minister John Denham last week, amid political fallout from the announcement of a sharp rise in the number waiting for outpatient appointments.

Official figures showed that the number of patients waiting more than 13 weeks rose to 85,000 at the end of June, up 29,000 on the previous quarter.

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said the figures were a 'disgrace' and repeated Conservative claims that the government was 'cooking' the headline figures.

Mr Denham said more than three-quarters of all patients received an outpatient appointment in 13 weeks, but said the extra cash for more outpatient clinics, staff and equipment would 'make things better'.

Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the£30m was 'part of the comprehensive spending review'. He added: 'This is not new money.'

The government needed to tackle variations in GP referral rates in order to have a real impact on outpatient waits, he said.

The handbook, by the waiting list action team, 'pulls together existing guidance' on list management, the Department of Health said.

The number of Welsh residents waiting for hospital treatment rose by 1 per cent in July to 67,962. Outpatient figures rose further still - with the number waiting for a first appointment increasing by 1,921 to 151,908.

Getting Patients Treated: the waiting list action team handbook. www.doh.gov.uk