Patients in North Wales waiting more than a year for treatment after being referred rises over 430% in 12 months
The number of patients with North Wales’ health board who are waiting more than a year for treatment after being referred has risen by 437% in a year.
New figures show that almost 2,500 people had waited a year or more for treatment within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board up to July 31, 2019.
One year on, that figure has more than quadrupled to 10,904.
Even allowing for the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a figure that has disturbed Plaid Cymru MS Llyr Gruffydd.
He said thousands of patients need to know “what is the pathway out of the pandemic”.
Betsi Cadwaladr said it had been working on a plan to restart services and that would be in the public domain soon, but said it had been prioritising people by clinical need.
It also said the priority was to keep patients “as safe as possible” as coronavirus had not gone away.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Of course Covid-19 and the emphasis on dealing with the pandemic has put many other treatments on stop.
“That’s understandable and hospitals have had to deal with an unprecedented situation here as elsewhere.
“However, as the Covid-19 numbers fall and hospitals begin to look to treating all these delayed procedures, the tens of thousands of patients across the North will want to know what the plan is.
“In the past, operations have been outsourced but the lack of external capacity means there will be little opportunity to repeat that. What is the pathway out of the pandemic?”
He added that he had written to Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething and Betsi Cadwaladr UHB to ask how patients will be treated in good time.
The number of people waiting longer between being referred for treatment and receiving it had also risen between 2018 and 2019.
Yet it was the halt to services caused by the pandemic that ramped up the waiting lists, leaving the health board looking for innovative ways to reduce them quickly.
Some progress has been made with virtual consultations, but the sheer scale of the backlog caused by the lockdown has been unprecedented.
Kate Clark, secondary care medical director for the health board, said: “Although Covid-19 has caused significant disruption to our services we have continued to prioritise those patients across North Wales who are in need of the most urgent care, such as those who need cancer surgery.
“We are now beginning to slowly restart some of our routine services that have been postponed during the pandemic.
“We have prioritised waiting lists so that we can offer patients access to treatments in order of clinical priority.
“It is important that we bring back our services where we can, but only where that can be done safely – the virus is still circulating and our priority is to keep our patients and staff as safe as possible.”
Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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