Claims that patients are enjoying the shortest waiting times in the history of the NHS have been labelled "Whitehall rhetoric".
Health Secretary Alan Johnson (pictured) said that not only had a target of treating patients within 18 weeks of their GP referral been met, but the average person now had to wait just 8.6 weeks.
But the Patients Association believes that such objectives do not look at an individual's clinical needs, with some patients able to wait longer while others need to be seen sooner.
"Everybody is so busy looking at the targets they don't feel the same pressure to look at individual patients' needs," a spokeswoman said.
She added: "The rhetoric from Whitehall can be very different to the experiences that some patients endure on a daily basis."
Mr Johnson pointed to the fact that 12 years ago it was not uncommon for patients to have to wait well over 18 months for an operation, congratulating staff for a tremendous achievement.
"Meeting the standard nationally, five months before it came into effect, shows the commitment of the whole health service to improving patients' experiences," he said.
"It's not just patients that benefit from this, clinicians also value the difference it makes to the quality of care they provide."
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