Welsh NHS waiting list continues to balloon with 50,000 waiting two years

The Labour-run NHS in Wales is continuing to rack-up a record-long treatment waiting list, with little improvement in A&E and ambulance waits.

Latest Welsh NHS data for December showed the highest ever number of patients waiting for treatment with 683,331 on patient pathways – over 14,000 more than September – leaving 1-in-5 Welsh people on the waiting list.

The number of people waiting over two years increased has jumped over 22,000 in just three months to nearly 50,000. The figures are likely get worse as the postponement of elective surgery across several health abords due to the Omicron variant is still being counted.

Median waiting times for that same month in Wales are more than double that of England (23.2 weeks compared to 10), while 1-in-4 Welsh patients are waiting over a year for treatment, compared to only 1-in-19 in England.

Additional figures showed a third (31.8%) of patients had to wait over the four hour target to be seen in A&E last month, worse than England and Scotland (25.7% and 25.6%, respectively). This is the fifth worst month for the Welsh NHS on record. The target to get 95% admittances seen in four hours has never been met in its 12-year existence.

Statistics also revealed that:

  • Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, which covers North Wales, was the worst performing area in the nation against the four-hour A&E target, seeing only 63% in four hours;
  • Wrexham Maelor Hospital saw fewer than half its patients (49.1%) in four hours, making it the worst performing site in Wales;
  • 8,998 patients waited over 12 hours in Welsh hospitals, 444 more than in December; and
  • Those aged over 85 spent an average of over eight hours to be seen in A&E –  the longest average wait since comparable data was first recorded in April 2012 for this age group

When it came to ambulance performance in January, only 52.5% of responses to immediately life-threatening calls arrived within eight minutes. The target of 65% of red-calls reaching their patient within eight minutes has not been reached in 18 months.

The slowest ambulances were in the Powys health board area with only 42.1% arriving within the eight-minute target, but three other health boards posted a figure under 50%.

Only 28.9% of amber call patients – which include strokes – were reached within 30 minutes. This was most acute in Cwm Taf Morgannwg with only a fifth of such calls arriving within half an hour.

The news comes on the same day the BBC has reported the case of a woman who is in extraordinary pain waiting for a hip operation.

In November, the NHS in Wales recorded its worst ever A&E waits and slowest ever ambulance response times.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“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.

“It is undeniable that emergency and elective care waits have reached these heights because of the pandemic – showing there were plenty of harmful health consequences to restricting healthcare services – but we cannot just go back to what it was like before Covid either.

“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.”

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