Hospital waiting lists drop first time in 3 years in Swansea UHB area

WAITING lists have stopped rising for the first time in three years in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, the chief executive of the region’s health board has said.

Mark Hackett said the drop in referral to treatment times for outpatients occurred in February.

Speaking at a meeting of Swansea University Health Board, he said:

“That is a terrific achievement, but we have along way to go in terms of bringing down those waiting lists to acceptable levels of waits. But that is what we are determined to do.”

Waiting lists across the NHS built up during the Covid pandemic, leaving some patients increasingly immobile and in discomfort while waiting for treatment.

Swansea Bay University Health Board has been shifting and expanding planned surgery from Morriston Hospital, which specialises in acute and emergency care, to Singleton Hospital. Additional planned surgery will also take place at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

An additional 58 theatre sessions are running each week compared to May 2021,  raising capacity to more than 150 sessions per week. All specialties have benefited, particularly general surgery and orthopaedics.

Mr Hackett said:

“That has meant a substantial amount of patients are getting a service that they they were not receiving prior to May 2021.”

The health board is ordering modular – or purpose-built – operating theatres for Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals.

Mr Hackett said an additional cataract theatre was currently being installed at Singleton Hospital. He said it would eradicate cataract waiting lists over the next 12-18 months and bring waiting lists down to under 26 weeks.

A separate report covering various key performance measures said 37,920 patients in Swansea Bay were, however, still waiting more than 36 weeks for treatment, with 27,040 of those waiting more than a year and 13,104 waiting more than two years.

It added that the performance in cancer services was below target, although the backlog of patients waiting more than 63 days for cancer treatment had reduced from 711 in January to 525 in February.

The report said radiotherapy waiting times were challenging, but that every patient requiring psychological therapy received it within 26 weeks.

Independent board member Reena Owen, referring to waiting times, said she was “very concerned about the cancer situation”, notwithstanding a lot of work going on to address it. She asked if the pace of this work could be accelerated.

Mr Hackett said the pace needed to be picked up, and that cancer patients were still waiting too long for their first treatment.

“We can’t walk past the cancer waits and say they are difficult – we’ve got to do something about them,” he said.

Richard Youle- Local Democracy Reporter

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