§ 30. Mr. Bellingham
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on orthopaedic waiting times. 
§ Mr. Hutton
We are is determined to reduce waiting times for orthopaedic patients. That is why we have established the "Action On Orthopaedics" programme as part of the modernisation of the national health service. The programme aims significantly to improve access to care and to reduce variations in waiting times through sharing best practice. It will lead the way in piloting new and innovative working practice.
In 2000–01, £9 million was made available directly to NHS practitioners to invest in specialist orthopaedic equipment. In 2001–02 a further £38.5 million was made available. Through this year's investment 23 new orthopaedic theatres will be built to create greater capacity to treat orthopaedic patients, which will facilitate reduced waiting times.
Waiting times for all patients are being reduced. In line with the NHS Plan, the maximum out-patient waiting time will be cut to three months by 2005 and the maximum in-patient waiting time will be cut to six months.
As a first step towards this, the maximum waiting time for an in-patient appointment will be 15 months by the end of March 2002 and the maximum waiting time for a first out-patient appointment will be six months.