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Welsh Government releases £8.1m for new operating theatres to clear waiting list backlogs

OPERATING theatres planned in Swansea Bay could clear some waiting list backlogs in two to three years, a health board report has said.

Four theatres for planned orthopaedic procedures such as hip and knee replacements – plus some spinal surgery – are coming to Neath Port Talbot Hospital, while an extra theatre to deal with eye disorders will be created at Singleton Hospital, Sketty.

Swansea Bay University Health Board progressed the proposals at a meeting in September and has now secured funding from the Welsh Government.

Board members are expected to advance the plans further at a meeting on November 25.

Orthopaedics and ophthalmology account for a quarter of the health board’s entire waiting list.

The “modular” operating theatres at Neath Port Talbot Hospital are expected to be up and running in 2022-23.

The target date for the installation of the operating theatre at Singleton Hospital is the current financial year.

The Welsh Government has provided £8.1 million to cover the cost of the theatres and the equipment they will need.

A report before the health board said that once operational, the extra ophthalmology capacity should enable waiting lists to be cleared in two years, while the orthopaedic backlog should be dealt with in two to three years.

Orthopaedic waits, it said, were “unacceptable” before the Covid crisis hit in March 2020 and were now even worse.

“Currently, elective orthopaedic activity within Swansea Bay and spinal theatre access is severely limited,” it said.

Speaking at a meeting in September, health board chief executive Mark Hackett said: “Fundamentally our patients need this service. The history to this is we’ve never had sufficient orthopaedic capacity to deal with the demands that this client group ask of us.”

A separate report which will be discussed at the November 25 meeting said there were 36,420 patients in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot waiting more than 36 weeks for planned care, as of October.

The number has been rising steadily and some patients have been waiting more than two years.

Emergency admissions have also been increasing in Swansea Bay, but they fell slightly to 10,737 in October.

Also in October there were 648 ambulance handovers at hospitals which took more than an hour – nearly double the 355 in October 2020.

Other figures include a marked drop in the proportion of life-threatening calls which ambulance paramedics were able to attend within eight minutes.

The target proportion for such calls is 65%, but in October it fell to 43.6%.

On the plus side, there were 238 patients who were medically fit for discharge last month but still occupying a hospital bed – normally because a package of care was not available – compared to 272 in September.

The health board has commissioned care home beds to support the discharge of medically fit patient from hospital, and this took effect on November 15.

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