§ Mr. Burns
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients in(a) England and (b) Mid-Essex are waiting for orthodontic treatment; and how many have been waiting for treatment for (i) up to six months, (ii) up to 12 months, (iii) up to 24 months, (iv) up to 36 months and (v) over 36 months. 
§ Ms Rosie Winterton
[holding answer 5 January 2003]: Information on waiting times for orthodontic treatment in the general dental services (GDS) is not available.
In terms of hospital treatment, in England at 30 September 2003 there were 228 patients waiting for elective inpatient admission for treatment by a consultant in the speciality of orthodontics. Of these 205 were waiting up to six months, and a further 23 were waiting over six months. No patients were waiting over 12 months. Mid-Essex Hospital Services National Health Service Trust had no patients waiting for the orthodontics speciality on the same date.
The NHS Plan (July 2000) sets out how waiting times will fall year on year. Maximum waiting times have already been reduced to 21 weeks for a first outpatient appointment and 12 months for inpatient treatment. However, the Government recognises that there is still some way to go.
Waiting times for hospital care will continue to fall, so that by the end of 2005, the maximum waiting time for a first outpatient appointment will be cut to 13 weeks and the maximum wait for inpatient treatment will be cut to six months.
In the twelve month period ending September 2003 GDS dentists in the Mid-Essex area claimed payment for 2,631 courses of treatment involving orthodontic appliances for children aged less than 18 years. This is equivalent to 27.5 claims per 1,000 population aged under 18, almost twice the England average of 14.5. The mid-Essex figure is for the area covered by the PCTs, Chelmsford; Maldon and South Chelmsford; Uttlesford; Witham, Braintree and Halstead.