Official Figures Show Waiting Times in Wales are Slumping

Data acquired via Freedom of Information requests indicates that NHS patients in Wales wait longer for many forms of treatment and diagnosis than patients in England.

In some categories, the difference between waiting times in England and Wales is quite dramatic.

For example, hip operations showed the biggest difference of four months, with an average wait in England of 75 days compared to 197 in Wales in 2014/15.

And waiting times in Wales for the treatment of cataracts, hernias and some heart operations are around two months longer than in England.

The political opposition to the Welsh government suggested that the results should incite a strong reaction, both politically and within the health service itself.

With waiting times throughout the NHS considered to be a hot potato issue, the particularly poor performance of the NHS in Wales will clearly be of concern.

The figures are drawn from the headline figures measured in the Hospital Episode Statistics from the English NHS and the Patient Episode Database for Wales.

Commenting on the figures, Vaughan Gething, a Welsh Labour Co-operative politician and the Deputy Minister for Health, accepted that there had been fundamental failings in the NHS in Wales.

Gething also expressed his determination to play a part in improving the situation as quickly as possible.

“We want to have a system that properly runs on waiting for treatment that is acceptable, but importantly the focus has to be on outcomes. How do we run a service in a different way because we know we have lots more demand coming into the system with an older population? What we need to do in Wales is to have a real focus on outcomes and not just on treatment times.”

With attention being directed at the Welsh NHS Confederation, the organisation attempted to explain the problem in an official response.

A spokesman for the confederation suggested that the waiting time statistics could be considered somewhat misleading, and do not represent the full scope of NHS activities in Wales.

“Much of the work carried out by the NHS is helping people to manage long-term conditions, often in primary care and the community, and avoid the need for hospital admission. While waiting times will always be a priority, our members will continue to work hard to improve the quality of care, and people’s health and well-being in the future.”

Nonetheless, despite the defence of the NHS operation in Wales, the Conservative opposition was predictably fast in proffering a scathing view on the subject.

The parties suggested that the statistics compiled in relation to the NHS in Wales provide “further evidence of the damaging legacy of Labour’s cuts, closures and downgrades”.

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar was strongly critical of the role of the Labour Party in the situation.

“It is utterly disgusting that people are waiting almost twice as long in Wales to have a heart bypass operation, placing vulnerable patients at risk of serious harm and potentially premature death. Meanwhile, waiting times for the treatment of cataracts, hernias and hip operations are also much longer here than over the border; impacting on them and their loved ones, and ruining their quality of life.”


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