WAITING list figures were dismissed as a poor way of judging hospital performance during a meeting in Bury.

Bury and Rochdale Health Authority bosses heard that waiting lists are the recognised barometer of the health of the health service itself.

And in the eyes of the public, waiting lists were the ultimate indicator of the capability of individual hospitals to deal with problems.

But in reaffirming their commitment to cutting waiting lists at the meeting, all present stressed there were several other indices which should be used in the assessment of the quality and efficiency of hospital services.

Bury and Rochdale Health Authority chief executive Richard Popplewell explained: "Waiting lists are a single barometer and people should look at quality of care, although this is difficult to measure, patient satisfaction, clinical outcome in terms of people getting better and not having to be readmitted for the same thing again, and standards of cleanliness, accommodation and food." Even though waiting lists are not the be-all and end-all in determining hospital quality, Bury is in a strong position in this respect.

Health authority figures for February show that 1,834 patients have been waiting less than nine months for treatment, 119 for between nine and 11 months, 74 for between 12 and 14 months and 25 for between 15 and 17 months. The total fell by 106 when compared with the previous month's figures.

There are no people who have been waiting for 18 months or more and there will not be any in the financial year to March 1999.

The Bury and Rochdale waiting list will be cut by 676 as part of the Government's target of reducing waiting lists by 100,000 nationally over the same period.

The Government has pumped in £2.3 million to help Bury and Rochdale meet this target.

At the meeting health authority bosses vowed to ensure that the extra cash was spent wisely to improve services across the board.

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