Surge in number of operations cancelled in Wales

Nearly 170,000 operations were cancelled in Wales over the last four years.

The Welsh Conservatives have discovered that there has a been a shocking increase in the number of operations that have been cancelled by Welsh Health Boards. Over the last four years, nearly 170,000 operations have been cancelled – compared to 2015/16, the number of operations cancelled in 2018/19 has increased by 7%.

Following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the seven health boards in Wales, in 2018/19 it was revealed that 42,483 operations were cancelled across Wales. This is an increase of just under 3,000 operations from 2015/16 where 39,741 operations did not go ahead.

The figures, however, do not include Hywel Dda University Health Board who did not respond to the FOI request.

Welsh Labour Government-run Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which has been in special measures for more than four years, saw the biggest rise in cancelled operations since 2015/16 with an increase of 31%. Not far behind was Aneurin Bevan Health Board with a 29% increase.

Commenting on the figures, Shadow Welsh Conservative Health Minister, Angela Burns AM, said:

“Last year potentially more than 42,000 patients had their operations cancelled by health boards. Patients often wait months to hear when their operation will take place and then have to wait again for the surgery to take place.  Many will be in pain or in discomfort throughout this time.

“These people’s lives are being put on hold for too long.

“It’s shocking that the Welsh Labour Government run Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is the worst performer, with a massive increase in cancelled operations. The people of Wales deserve better.”

Paul Davies AM, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, added:

“Once again after 20 years of this failing Welsh Labour Government running the Welsh NHS we can see that they are continuing to let the people of Wales down.

“The Welsh Conservatives are taking action. Thanks to the UK Conservative Government getting our economy back on track we are able to invest in our public services. Over the next three years the Welsh NHS will get an extra £1.2 billion to boost our NHS, from the UK Conservative Government, as well as £110 million this year to help tackle our crumbling hospital facilities.”

The toplines for individual health boards are:

Betsi Cadwaladr:

  • Total of 38,930 cancelled operations in 4 years.
  • Biggest increases include gastroenterology (207% – 364 cancellations in 15/16, 1118 in 18/19) and clinical oncology (9,388% or 94 fold increase – 8 in 15/16 to 759 in 18/19)
  • Ophthalmology cancellations also nearly doubled, increasing by 89% (744 to 1405).

Aneurin Bevan:

  • Total of 32,443 cancelled operations in 4 years.
  • Biggest increases include general surgery (50% increase – 1139 cancellations in 15/16, 1710 in 18/19) and trauma and orthopaedic(23% increase).

Cardiff and Vale

  • Total of 42,818 cancelled operations in 4 years.
  • Overall increase of 12% since 15/16 – although there was a spike in 16/17 and 17/18 which has been reduced.
  • Some of the largest increases include patient urology (65% increase, from 574 in 15/16 to 947 in 18/19) and general surgery (21%, from 1141 in 15/16 to 1,377 in 18/19)

Swansea Bay

  • Total of 38,777 cancelled operations in 4 years.
  • Overall decrease of 14% since 15/16.
  • Some of the biggest increases include cancellations for haematology (x5 increase/ 438%  – from 32 in 15/16 to 172 in 18/19).

Cwm Taf Morgannwg

  • Total of 15,536 cancelled operations in 4 years.
  • Overall decrease of 37% since 15/16.
  • Decrease in the hospital cancelling operations in all specialities, apart from anaesthetics which increased by 9 since 15/16.


  • Total of 861 cancelled operations in 4 years.
  • No breakdowns available.

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