In September hospital waiting lists decreased for the first time since April 2001.
In England the number of patients waiting for treatment dropped by 0.4 per cent over the month to 1,035,300. But the figure is still an increase of 0.4 per cent on the same time last year.
The number of patients waiting for more than a year fell by 2.3 per cent to 43,900, 12.7 per cent lower than the same time last year.
Health minister John Hutton said these figures showed the government is making progress towards cutting waiting times.
He said the government was working towards making the maximum waiting time 15 months by the end of March 2002.