Patients in Wales to wait no longer than 12 months for NHS treatment by 2025 under new Welsh Government plan
NHS patients in Wales will wait no longer than 12 months for treatment, according to plans unveiled by the Welsh Government.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said patients would not wait more than a year for treatment in most specialties by spring 2025.
Health boards will be given an additional £15 million a year over the next four years to cut waiting times, which have increased dramatically since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago.
Recent figures show that in February 2022 there were 691,885 people waiting for treatment – a rise from the 688,836 recorded in January. Before the pandemic began in March 2020 there were 456,809 people on the waiting list.
The Welsh Government said it has now committed more than £1 billion this Senedd term to help the NHS recover from the pandemic.
“We need a determined effort to ensure people waiting for appointments and treatment are seen as quickly as possible and in order of clinical priority,” Ms Morgan said.
“We are committing £1 billion this Senedd term to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and to treat people as quickly as possible.
“Reducing waiting times will require new solutions, more equipment, new facilities and more staff to help diagnose people quickly as part of an effective and efficient planned care service.
“This plan sets out how we will transform planned care so the most urgent cases are prioritised.
“Unfortunately waiting times and waiting lists have grown during the pandemic and will take a long time and a lot of hard work to do but we are committed to working with our fantastic NHS to ensure no one waits longer than a year for treatment in most specialities by spring 2025.
“Together with reducing waiting times, we also want to help people understand and manage their conditions and to feel supported while they are waiting for treatment.
“This is a big task – but it is our focus for the rest of this term.”
Under the plans, the Welsh Government is aiming for 35% of all new appointments and 50% of follow-up appointments being delivered virtually in future. Another element is delivering more diagnostic tests outside hospitals and closer to people’s homes in primary and community care settings.
A website will also be created where patients can get the information and support to manage their own conditions.
Professor Jon Barry, interim director for Wales at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Surgeons have been working hard to get elective services back up and running, but Covid-19 is still disrupting our efforts.
“The targets set by the plan are important, so we are calling for an annual report to the Senedd to track progress.
“However, we have concerns that some targets only relate to some specialties, potentially leaving other patients without a clear idea of when they can expect to be treated.
“Also, we know our workforce is over-stretched, and we need solutions to the long-standing issue of staff vacancies.
“Delivering on the targets in the plan must not come at the expense of staff welfare.”
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said that the NHS needed a plan that looks at every aspect of the patient journey through the health and care sector.
“This has to start with increased focus on prevention, to reduce the number of people who are seeking health care in the first place, and must include plans to quickly support those patients who need care packages after hospital treatment, to free up beds in hospitals,” he said.
“It’s also not clear if government are taking any additional steps to address the severely depleted workforce across health and care.
“While the increased support for those on waiting lists is to be welcomed, as is the promise of a new focus on diagnostics, what the NHS in Wales desperately needs and deserves is a comprehensive plan that addresses the whole patient journey, including the workforce required to deliver the service.
“The fact that new targets are to be set is welcome, but we’ll have to assess the level of ambition and firmly hold the Government to account to ensure targets are met.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds MS said that she welcomed the plan announced by the Health Minister to provide patients and NHS staff with “clarity” about the treatment they can expect after COVID-19 delays.
“However, we have heard many similar promises to the one announced today throughout Labour’s 22 years in power in Wales,” she said. “Patients and staff need certainty that this plan will be delivered and that decision-makers will be held to account if these targets are not met.
“It also remains a significant concern of ours that Wales could lose 80 out of this year’s 160 GP trainees due to the Conservatives’ archaic immigration policies which could have a significant impact on the plans announced today.”
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