HEALTH Minister Ben Bradshaw has praised Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust for hitting treatment targets nine months early. More than nine out of 10 patients referred to the Trust are being seen, having tests and starting treatment within 18 weeks. The

HEALTH Minister Ben Bradshaw has praised Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust for hitting treatment targets nine months early.More than nine out of 10 patients referred to the Trust are being seen, having tests and starting treatment within 18 weeks.The 90 per cent target was passed at the end of March - nine months before the national deadline of December 2008.Mr Bradshaw said: "This is wonderful news for the people of Northern Devon. Ten years ago it was not uncommon to wait 18 months or more for treatment, and people died languishing on waiting lists. "To meet the 18-week target is a fantastic achievement by local NHS staff and by local and regional management."Trust chief executive Jac Kelly said: "This is a real improvement for people who are waiting for treatment in Northern Devon. The shorter the wait, the less pain, discomfort and stress people face."Our staff have worked really hard, changing the way they do things. That's meant extra operating sessions, for example, and new technology to iron out delays in the system. But it's all worthwhile to see these reductions in waiting."n Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust runs North Devon District Hospital, the five community hospitals at Holsworthy, South Molton, Ilfracombe, Bideford and Torrington, Barnstaple Health Centre and Lynton Resource Centre.