The Welsh government has vowed to “transform” planned care and reduce waiting times over the next four years, in a new £60m scheme.
The plan, which will be published at midday today, is designed to alleviate the backlog of appointments and treatments that have built up over the pandemic. As of February, there were almost 700,000 patients still on the waiting list, with over a quarter of a million of those having been on the waiting list for over nine months.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan has promised nobody will be waiting more than a year for treatment in most specialties by Spring 2025.
She said: "We need a determined effort to ensure people waiting for appointments and treatment are seen as quickly as possible and in order of clinical priority. We are committing £1bn this Senedd term to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and to treat people as quickly as possible.”
She added: "Reducing waiting times will require new solutions, more equipment, new facilities and more staff to help diagnose people quickly as part of an effective and efficient planned care service. This plan sets out how we will transform planned care so the most urgent cases are prioritised.”
She concluded: "Unfortunately waiting times and waiting lists have grown during the pandemic and will take a long time and a lot of hard work to do but we are committed to working with our fantastic NHS to ensure no one waits longer than a year for treatment in most specialties by spring 2025. Together with reducing waiting times, we also want to help people understand and manage their conditions and to feel supported while they are waiting for treatment. This is a big task – but it is our focus for the rest of this term."
The aforementioned plan aims to deliver 35% of new appointments and 50% of follow-up appointments virtually, in order to free clinicians’ time so they can see more patients.
A new online website will also be created looking to centralise patient information, allowing them to manage their own healthcare more efficiently and ultimately reduce the number of people being re-admitted into hospital.
Examples of how the funding has already improved patient waiting times include:
- £2.2m for Swansea Bay University Health Board for the Singleton Day Surgery Unit, which will treat 3,000 more cataracts patients per year.
- £19.9m for two new operating theatres at Prince Phillip Hospital, in Llanelli, which will treat an additional 4,600 people a year.
- £827,000 for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s mobile endoscopy units to treat an additional 600 people.
- £1m for trauma and orthopaedics at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, to treat an extra 3,650 people.
- £1.4m for two vanguard theatres at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board which will see between 3,900 and 4,500 people a year.
Professor Jon Barry, Director for Wales at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "We are hearing from surgeons across Wales that Covid-19 is still impacting planned or elective surgery due to patients and staff testing positive and high levels of staff absence. In some areas, elective services are once again being brought to a standstill. These last-minute cancellations are agonising for patients who are waiting in pain and distress for their planned surgery.”
He added: “The Welsh Government must get to grips with the severity of the situation and establish elective centres or surgical hubs across Wales to get elective services back up and running."
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