The NHS is en route to achieving its 18-week referral-to-treatment promise.
An improvement plan published in July 2004 stated that, "by 2008, noone will have to wait longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to hospital treatment."
Official statistics published today show that 48% of patients are already being treated within 18 weeks, a year ahead of schedule.
This is an improvement on December 2006 figures that revealed that only 35% patients were being treated within the allocated time slot.
The NHS now measures every step of the patient journey, including diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments.
It says this vigorous system will help improve healthcare performance across the country.
Some specialities are quicker to treat patients than others. Two top contenders include general medicine and gastroenterology, treating 70% and 76% of patients within 18 weeks, respectively.
Health Minister Andy Burnham said: "These statistics show we still have a challenge ahead of us to meet the highest standards, but overall they are hugely encouraging.
"They will help the NHS effectively end waiting by the end of next year."
Department of Health
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