Posted: Sun 2nd Jul 2023

Wales’ first minister challenged over growing NHS waiting lists

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Jul 2nd, 2023

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The first minister has come under fire after the Welsh government failed to meet its own target to reduce NHS waiting lists. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Figures released last week showed an 6,000 patients in Wales were waiting to start to their April. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Despite waiting lists falling for five consecutive months there 743,300 open patient pathways – equating to 582,000 individual patients on treatment waiting lists in Wales ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

A person can be on more than one waiting list at a time, which is why there is a difference between open pathways and individuals patients. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Of those around 31,500 pathways were waiting more than two years to start treatment. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It is the second month in a row that the Welsh government failed to hit its target of eliminating two year waits for most specialties by March 2023. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The target was not met in March and in April there were still a further 21 specialties with pathways waiting more than two years accounting for 4,500 pathways. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

On Tuesday First Minister Mark Drakeford came under fire from the leader of the opposition, Andrew RT Davies, who asked whether the two year waiting lists would be eliminated by the end of the year. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The Welsh Conservative leader, added: “An extra 6,000 people were added on the pathway list; now, nearly 750,000 people in Wales are on a pathway. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We also saw a minuscule drop in those waiting two years or more; in excess of 30,000 people are waiting two years or more. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“One in five people who are on an NHS pathway here in Wales are waiting one year or more—one year or more to see themselves progress on those waiting lists. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“What hope can you give to those individuals who are waiting two years or one year, and those who have been added to the waiting lists time and time again, as each month passes by, that these lists will decrease and that by the end of the year we will see the elimination of the two-year waits here in Wales?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies

The first minister argued that there are “enormous efforts that the health service is making and the success that the health service is seeing in those efforts.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He continued on to reference comparable data to London, stating: “Two-year waits did fall again last month for the thirteenth month in a row, 52-week waits for out-patients fell again last month, and department performance improved last month. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“In the figures, challenging as the situation is, there are signs that the investment that the Minister has made, and the plan that she has for the NHS in the post-COVID period, is succeeding. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Just to think of it in this way, in the six months to March 2023, the last full year, waiting lists in Wales decreased by 2.6 per cent, while they increased in London by 2.7 per cent—a 5 percentage point gap in performance to the advantage of the Welsh NHS.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

However the first minister was accused of deflection by comparing data from England, with Mr RT Davies calling for action to “reduce the stubbornly high waiting lists.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said: “You talk about the decrease in two-year waits; 261 people came off that two-year wait. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“There are still over 30,000 people waiting two years or more here in Wales. In England, they have all but been eliminated, and in Scotland as well, so this is an outlier that’s happening here in Wales on your watch.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The first minister defended the Welsh government’s work to reduce waiting lists, stating: “As I’ve said to him, those long waits are falling—they are falling in in-patients and they are falling in out-patients. Diagnostic waits and therapy waits continued to fall, particularly in therapy waits, last month. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“And the median time—the standard time—it takes to be treated in the Welsh NHS, from the minute your doctor refers you to the minute your treatment is concluded, is 20 weeks. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“That is the standard experience of a Welsh patient: from the minute they are referred to the minute their treatment is over, it takes 20 weeks. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“That’s why, when the Member always comes here to talk down the NHS, to tell us that there’s nothing good he can find to say about it, it does not resonate in the experience of people who rely on the NHS, who know how hard people are working and who know how exhausted our staff are from the enormous demands that they have faced in recent times. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The Welsh Government backs them; it backs them with investment, it backs them by resolving pay disputes without the strikes that we have seen in England and will continue to see in England, and it does so by having a commitment to that service that only a Labour Government will ever provide.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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