§ Mr. Breed
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting times in accident and emergency units were in each(a) constituency and (b) health authority in England since 1992; and what the most recent 12 month figures are. 
§ Ms Blears
[holding answer 28 February 2002]: The average waiting time in accident and emergency units is not collected.
However, the NHS Plan set a new target for Accident and Emergency: reduce the maximum wait in Accident and Emergency from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge to four hours by 2004.
With the following interim milestones;75 per cent. of patients attending Accident and Emergency to wait 4 hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge by March 2002.90 per cent. of patients attending Accident and Emergency to wait 4 hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge by March 2003.
In line with this, from August 2001, the Department has collected data on total time in Accident and Emergency from arrival to transfer, admission or discharge. Information suggests that the national health service is on track to meet the March 2002 milestone. Currently 77 per cent. of all Accident and Emergency attenders spend four hours or less in Accident and Emergency.
Information on the number of patients waiting from admission from an accident and emergency department is also collected and the latest information is available on the Department's website www.doh.gov.uk/hospitalactivity.
§ Mr. Andrew Turner
To ask the Secretary of State for Health for which procedures he guarantees six-month maximum waiting time. 437W
§ Mr. Hutton
[holding answer 5 March 2002]: At present, no procedures are guaranteed a six-month maximum waiting time. However, from 1 April 2002, all patients waiting for their first out-patient appointment will be guaranteed to be seen within six months. This is in line with the targets set out in the NHS Plan.
The NHS Plan sets out this Government's targets for improving NHS waiting times. By the end of March 2005, the maximum waiting time for all in-patients will have been cut from 18 now down to 15,12, nine and eventually to six months and the maximum waiting time for initial out-patient appointments will be cut to three months. Urgent cases will continue to be treated in preference and in accordance with clinical need.
Detailed waiting time data are available in the Library.
§ Mr. Andrew Turner
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if health purchasing authorities set minimum waiting times in contracts with NHS and independent providers; and if he has offered guidance on securing minimum waiting times. 
§ Mr. Hutton
[holding answer 5 March 2002]: Maximum waiting times for first out-patient appointments from GP referral and for in-patient appointments are set out in the NHS Plan. From 1 April 2002, the maximum waiting time from GP referral to a first outpatient appointment will be six months and the maximum waiting time for an in-patient appointment will be 15 months. Maximum waiting times will fall on a staged basis each year up to 2005, when the maximum waiting time for a first out-patient appointment will be three months and the maximum waiting time for an in-patient appointment will be six months.
Primary care organisations and strategic health authorities are expected to purchase adequate care from NHS and independent health care providers in order to ensure patients are treated within the maximum waiting times standards.
There are no minimum waiting times standards set nationally.