Waiting times for surgical treatment in Wales ‘up 400%’

4 Sep 17

Waiting times of more than a year for surgical treatment in Wales have surged by 400% in four years, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Figures obtained by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) showed in March 2017 the number of patients waiting more than a year for surgical treatment was 3,605 – up from 699 patients waiting that long in March 2013.

In England, 1,302 patients waited longer than 52 weeks for treatment in March 2017. 

The RCS has warned that NHS Wales and the Welsh government must give renewed focus to developing a strategy that significantly reduces long waiting times.

Tim Havard, regional director for Wales at the RCS and a consultant general surgeon, said some progress has been made with waiting times but described the overall increase as “worrying”.

He called on the government to improve provision of out-of-hospital services and offer more protection of beds used for planned surgery. 

Havard said: “The Welsh health service is facing a raft of pressures, with hospital wards being filled with patients that should be treated in the community and a continued squeeze on finances. 

“Improving the availability of community beds, primary care, and caring for people in their own home would significantly reduce unnecessary and prolonged hospital admissions.”

The Welsh government said the country’s health service was dealing with an ever increasing amount of demand but despite this it had implemented plans to improve waiting times, which, he said, were beginning to have effect.  

Although, he added: “We acknowledge some people are still waiting too long for treatment. That's why we established the planned care programme to help NHS Wales deliver sustainable services.

“In addition, health boards have action plans in place to reduce long waits and, earlier this month, the health secretary announced an extra £50m to help the NHS further improve waiting times.”

The FOI figures show Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board saw the greatest increases in patients having to wait longer than 52 weeks to receive treatment. 

While no patients served by Cwm Taf University Health Board waited more than 52 weeks for treatment in March 2017.

There has also been a particularly steep in increase in the number of patients waiting for particular types of surgery.

Trauma and orthopaedics saw an increase from 39 patients waiting more than 52 weeks in March 2013, to 2,489 patients in March 2017.

Other surgical specialties with significant increases in 52-week waits include:

•    General surgery – from 184 in March 2013, to 376 in March 2017
•    Maxillo facial surgery – from 91 in March 2013, to 213 in March 2017
•    Urology – from 84 in March 2013, to 144 in March 2017

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