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Surgery waiting times ‘not acceptable’ says Welsh Conservative AM Suzy Davies

PEOPLE needing urgent knee, hip and shoulder operations in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot continue to wait for up to two years to go under the knife.

Patients on the list for routine orthopaedic operations are waiting even longer.

Welsh Conservative AM Suzy Davies said the situation was not acceptable given that the target from referral to treatment was 36 weeks.

Swansea Bay University Health Board said it was trying to reduce the backlog but was dealing with very high levels of emergency demand, and apologised to those facing delays.

Patients waiting in considerable discomfort include a woman from Gower whose friend, Swansea man Clive Williams, went public with her plight in March this year.

The woman, who needs a new hip and knee, had been advised that she faced a 113-week wait and wrote to Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething and Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris expressing her exasperation.

Mr Williams, of Cwmdu, said this week that his Gower friend, who is in her 70s and wished not to be identified, was still waiting for her operations. It is now nearly 16 months since she was referred for the hip replacement.

“She is in excruciating pain,” said Mr Williams.

In a Freedom of Information response to regional AM Mrs Davies, the health board said waits for urgent shoulder, hip and knee operations at the beginning of September were 108 weeks, 98 weeks and 93 weeks respectively – an improvement from earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, waits for routine shoulder, hip and knee operations at the beginning of September were 128 weeks, 120 weeks and 103 weeks respectively.

More than 1,500 patients in total are affected.

Mrs Davies said: “To have to wait up to two-and-a-half years, often in severe pain, for this surgery is not acceptable.

“I know of individuals choosing to use all their savings to go privately because they cannot face the prospect of waiting so long in pain.”

The health board said it was investing in extra capacity to treat more orthopaedic patients, using other providers to take on cases as a temporary measure, and recruiting an additional upper limb surgeon.

In a further statement, chief operating officer Chris White said the health board was continually balancing the demand for emergency and elective (non-emergency) care.

“Very high levels of emergency demand, such as those we are experiencing at the moment, can reduce elective care capacity,” he said.

“This can lead to delays for those waiting for non-emergency surgery. We appreciate this can be distressing for our patients and we apologise to those facing delays.”

Mrs Davies said the Wales NHS “has never caught up from the Welsh Labour Government’s choice to cut its budget four years running”, and said she hoped an extra £167 million coming via the Conservatives to Welsh hospitals would help her constituents.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said Mrs Davies had got her facts wrong.

“Health spending per person grew by 3.5% in Wales in 2017-18 – faster than any other UK country,” she said. “Wales has spent more on health per person than England in every year since 1999-2000.”

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