ALMOST 700, 000 patients in Wales are on a waiting list for treatment – around a quarter of the population. This is an increase of some 50% since the start of the Covid pandemic. Both the First Minister and the Health Minister have earlier in the year expressed their concerns
Mark Drakeford has spoken of ‘challenging times’ ahead and Eluned Morgan said “it keeps me awake at night. I do worry and I am very aware that people are suffering”.
The Welsh Government has promised to spend £1 billion to help the NHS recover from the pandemic before the next election.
Responding to the latest NHS figures 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.”