Record number of patients waiting for treatment in Wales

Published: 18/02/2021

Over 200,000 people waiting over 36 weeks to start treatment

Immediate and long-term solutions will help address non-COVID patient care

The Referral to Treatment figures in Wales released today show nearly a quarter of a million patients (226,138) waiting more than the 36 week government target in December 2020. In a testament to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff this is a reduction from 231,022 in November 2020. However, the number of patients now waiting to start treatment is at a record high of 538,861.  

Dr Abrie Theron, Chair of the Welsh Board, Royal College of Anaesthetists, said: “The figures released today show the devastating impact the pandemic has had on waiting lists in Wales, with over half a million patients now waiting for treatment, and over 200,000 patients waiting more than 36 weeks.”

“Addressing waiting lists must be at the heart of any COVID recovery plan for NHS Wales, especially as a backlog this size will already take years to clear. With the Welsh government announcing on Friday its roadmap for potentially easing restrictions, it is paramount that we take a cautious approach. In the immediate term, the Royal College of Anaesthetists is calling on the Welsh government to ensure restrictions continue to be effective in reducing the numbers of COVID patients in hospital. We must remain able to manage COVID demand whilst continuing and increasing the availability of routine care. This is paramount if clinicians and healthcare workers are to have any chance of starting to work through this backlog of patients who desperately need treatment.

“In the longer-term the College is calling on the Welsh government to introduce a funded national backlog strategy, matched by investment in the workforce. We need to see a fundamental overhaul to the way healthcare is delivered across the NHS as a whole. A system that focuses on delivering a package of integrated and patient-centred care including help to prepare for surgery. This perioperative care approach has been proven to reduce length of hospitals stays and post-surgery complications, while reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.”