WIGAN hospitals are among only a handful in the country now hitting non-emergency operation targets.
At present, all NHS hospitals are expected by the Department of Health (DoH)to see nine out of 10 patients who need operations such as knee and hip replacements, within 18 weeks.
Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust credits a new protocol aimed at ensuring as many patients are treated as soon as possible to the trend-bucking success.
The news comes as a welcome boost to the trust at a time when Government ministers have ordered all other trusts in the country to make sure they meet the target before the end of the summer.
However, the DoH said it was likely to be missed for a few months while the patients with the longest waits were dealt with.
Those waiting more than 52 weeks topped 18,000 in May 2010, but had dropped to 574 in May this year, the latest month for which the data is available.
But now ministers want the NHS to make another push to treat those who have been waiting for a year - unless it is clinically necessary.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “No-one – except in exceptional circumstances – should have to wait for more than a year.”
However, a raft of changes at WWL have ensured that they are leading the way.
A trust spokesman said: “The trust invested significant amounts of money to improve the situation which saw the introduction of two new operating theatres and weekly monitoring. Other measures to ensure we met the 18-week wait time included streamlining outpatients which reduced wait times by an average of four weeks, ensuring patients were seen by the right specialist first time round, new theatre scheduling as well as £18m of investment at Wrightington hospital.”
To view a video showing how WWL have implemented changes so that all patients are seen within 18 weeks visit http://youtube/DQpREvUYRhc