Welsh Government under fire over ‘catastrophic’ NHS waiting times
The Welsh Government is facing a wave of criticism following the publication of the latest NHS statistics today, which reveals the number of patients waiting for treatment in Wales is the highest ever recorded.
Overall 691,885 people, an increase of over 140,000 from the same time last year are waiting for treatment and the number of people waiting over two years has increased to over 64,000, more than three times the number recorded last August
Last month also saw the worst ever A&E waiting times on record as over 10,000 people had to wait over 12 hours to be seen and 35% of all patients were waiting over the four-hour target.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “After Labour’s management of the NHS hit new lows as waiting times reached new heights last autumn, the people of Wales expected things to get better from there, not worse.
“But here we are on the verge of NHS waiting lists breaking its own record on a monthly basis for two years, A&E waits at their worst-ever, with ambulance responses not far behind – all the more dispiriting when things are getting better in England.
“Every one of these cases is more than a mere statistic – it is a person languishing in pain wondering how the public services they pay for have been so badly mismanaged. That person in one in every five: family, friends, colleagues – you will know one of them if you are not one of them yourself.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Health and Care said: “This is another immensely worrying set of figures, with pressure on the NHS remaining critical. Frontline staff continue to work flat out, but leadership needs to come from the top and that’s why we need to see the Welsh Government’s plan to reduce waiting times in all sectors of care, treatment and diagnostics as a matter of urgency.
“Any slight improvement in waiting times is to be welcomed, but almost 44,000 patients were still waiting longer than the target time for diagnostics, which is twelve times greater than before the pandemic.
“Recovering from Covid and reducing these waiting lists is an enormous mountain to climb. A recovery plan must have a clear focus on prevention, not just patient through-put. Publication of the plan has been pushed back several times but cannot be delayed further.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “These figures are catastrophic for people up and down Wales. Labour is utterly failing to get to grips with this crisis, the Welsh Government needs to act and act now.
“The Government must launch an investigation into the crisis in our ambulance services, fill the 3,000 vacancies in the Welsh NHS and get a handle on devastating cancer waiting times.
“If we are to resolve the crisis in A&E specifically, we need plans to reform the social care sector in Wales to be brought forward. Government after government at both the Welsh level and the UK level have failed to get to grips with this, but it is something that is vital to get right if we are to reduce pressure on A&E services.
“We also need to see more funding put into local health care services including GPs, in some parts of my own region the waiting time to see a GP regularly exceeds a month, if not longer.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “COVID-19 continues to impact waiting times and staffing levels. Increased Infection Prevention and Control measures continue to affect the level of activity health boards can undertake.
“Despite this, the number of patient pathways waiting over 8 weeks for diagnostic tests decreased by 10% compared to January 2022 and by 30% compared to the high point of May 2020. All health boards have shown an improvement.
“Although some people continue to wait longer for treatment than we would like, with the over 36 week position increasing again in February, this increase was the second smallest month-on-month increase since the start of the pandemic. In addition, five health boards showed a decrease in their over 36 week waits, an improvement from January, when only two health boards showed an improvement.
“February 2022 saw the number of patient pathways waiting over 52 weeks decrease by 1% compared to January 2022.
“The number of open pathways waiting over 26 weeks for a first outpatient appointment decreased by 583 (0.3%) in February compared to January 2022; with four out of seven health boards showing improvements in February”
“There are several factors contributing to make it difficult for urgent and emergency care services to deliver timely care consistently. These include higher sickness absence rates and difficulties in discharging people from hospital, resulting in longer delays in Emergency Departments for beds.
“We have also seen an increase in demand and the emergency ambulance service reported a 10% increase in the volumes of ‘red’ or life threatening calls per day in March when compared to February. There were also 46% more red calls reported in March 2022 when compared to the same month in 2021.
“There has been a sharp increase in the volumes of people attending Emergency Departments, with a 23% increase in daily attendances reported in March 2022 when compared with the same month in 2021. A near 10% increase in emergency admissions was also reported in March when compared with February.”
“The national Six Goals for Urgent and Emergency Care Programme is intended to support Health Boards and partners to improve experience, outcomes and value, and we have made £25m available in support.”
“February saw a 2.5% increase in people starting their first definitive treatment following a new diagnosis of cancer from January 2022 and a 6.5% increase in the number of patients starting treatment within the 62 day target.
“Next week we will publish a detailed plan on how we will tackle the waiting times for patients whose treatment has been delayed by the pandemic.”
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