More than 400 patients have been added to Ulster's hospital waiting lists in just three months, but patients face shorter waiting times to get their treatment.
Statistics showed 40,707 patients were on Northern Ireland's in-patient waiting list at the end of September.
That is an increase of 422 on the list from the end of June.
However, 6,237 fewer patients are on the list compared to this time last year.
Health Minister Paul Goggins said the province was on course to have no one waiting for more than six months by next March.
The number of people waiting longer than six months for surgery at the end of September fell to 3,786 - a drop of 26.4% compared to the previous quarter, said the Department of Health.
The number of out-patients waiting more than six months for a first appointment also fell by 16.2%. However, there are still no fewer than 177,685 patients waiting to see a consultant for the first time.
At the same time, Mr Goggins criticised the significant number of patients who failed to turn up for appointments or cancelled at the last moment.
He said: "A significant number of patients are still failing to turn up for their out-patient appointment or cancel at the last minute when it is too late to give someone else their slot.
"The public must play their part too. Some people are denying others the opportunity to see a consultant as quickly as possible."
But the minister said the continued fall in waits for surgery and out-patient appointments was good news for patients.
"I particularly welcome the fact that, in addition to the reduction in the number of people waiting more than six months for surgery, at the end of September only a handful of patients were waiting more than nine months for treatment."
Several weeks ago health chiefs claimed waiting times for surgery were at an all-time low.
Figures published on the Department of Health website for the month of October showed that the maximum waiting time for in-patient or day-care treatment is now nine months.