Welsh Government facing pressure to tackle ‘abysmal’ waiting times
The Welsh Government is being urged to do more to improve hospital waiting times and to ensure people get the care they need when they need it.
The numbers on waiting lists for non-urgent hospital treatment in Wales have hit record levels for the 20th consecutive month.
According to figures released by the Welsh Government analysing NHS Wales activity and performance data, the latest monthly rise was the smallest since the pandemic began. There were 683,331 on December’s list, with people waiting the longest for non-urgent care – more than nine months – rising by 2,664 to a record 244,331.
This compares to figures released in September last year when the overall waiting list for treatment in July hit an all-time high of 643,108, the equivalent of just over 20% of the Welsh population, while the number of patients waiting more than nine months to start hospital treatment has soared from 25,634 in February last year to 239,195 (a jump of 833%)
While there were improvements on the four hour target for A&E waiting times, ambulance response times, waiting times for A&E are said to be the fifth worst on record.
In January 2022, almost 37,000 emergency calls were made to the ambulance service. This is an average of 1,191 calls per day, and the eighth month in a row where, on average, there were more than 100 immediately life-threatening calls made each day.
Falling short of a target of 65%, only 52.5% of emergency responses to immediately life threatening (red) calls arrived within 8 minutes.
Additionally, earlier figures show that almost 80 per cent of referrals to Child Mental Health Services were not being seen in the four-week waiting time.
Plaid Cymru MS and spokesman for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth responded figures, picking up on the news that the Welsh Government’s plan to tackle the NHS backlogs would not be published until April.
He said: “The evidence tells us that there is less pressure on our NHS from coronavirus, and yet Welsh Government has been too slow to react to this good news. When faced with such a time-sensitive task as getting the NHS back on track, there is no time to waste.
“Undoubtably the pandemic has had a massive impact on the ability of our NHS to diagnose and treat patients – the waiting times now are beyond shocking. But they weren’t good enough before the pandemic.
“Welsh Government should be ready with a recovery plan now, just as they should have had a plan in place before the pandemic. April is too long to wait for such an important matter.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and MS Jane Dodds said: “These figures truly are abysmal and make for harrowing reading.
“While the pandemic has resulted in extra pressure on the NHS in Wales, we cannot pretend it hasn’t been in crisis for many years now.
“We urgently need action to reduce waiting times and make sure patients are getting the care they need when they need it.
“This has to be at the very top of the Government’s priority list.”
Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS added: “Every month, these figures only go to show how much work there is to be done to get our national health service into a fit state that works for patients and staff.
“The treatment waiting list was already at a record high two years ago, the longest-ever pre-Covid A&E waits were in 2019, NHS beds have been cut year-on-year by a third of what they were when Labour entered power, and there are still thousands of staff vacancies to fill.
“Under Labour, business as usual would be failure as usual.”
Commenting on the figures the Welsh Government said: “We have provided £248m so far to support our NHS recovery plan. In April we will publish a detailed plan on how we will tackle the waiting times for patients whose treatment has been delayed by the pandemic.
“Demanding winter pressures, the Omicron wave and the need to support the vaccination programme continued to place considerable strain on the NHS in December 2021.
“These challenges led to the postponement of a number of appointments and planned treatments across Wales and some people were waiting longer for treatment than we would like.
“While the number of patient pathways waiting for treatment increased again in December 2021, it was at the slowest rate since the start of the pandemic.”
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