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Late, later, latest

Betsan Powys | 13:48 UK time, Monday, 30 June 2008

What do you give a 60 year old on their birthday?

A copy of the Times from 1948?

A free bus pass?

If you're the NHS, celebrating its 60th anniversary on Saturday, the Assembly Government has bigger plans. It's throwing a party for NHS pioneers later this week but has already come up with a list of "the latest statistics" which gives us a picture of the NHS in Wales today.

There's no mention of free prescriptions or free car parking in hospitals. We're talking plain old facts and figures here.

For instance the NHS in Wales employs around 90,000 people, 7% of the Welsh workforce.

There are 13,600 hospital beds in Wales and over 1,900 GPs who prescribe, on average, 162,000 items every day.

On that average day 3,000 people attend hospital casualty departments and 750 operations are performed.

These 'latest statistics' come, by the way, with a National Satistics logo or kitemark that looks a bit like that '5-a-day' logo on your bananas or 'red tractor' badge on your broccoli.

The big green and blue tick tells you and me that these statistics are cast iron.

Statistics like these: that the NHS in Wales has "reduced hospital waiting times so that by March 2008 no one was waiting longer than 22 weeks for an outpatient appointment and only 5 people were waiting over 22 weeks for admission to hospital".

Still way, way longer than patients in England are waiting but all the same, good news all round that the latest statistics are so healthy.

And they were, back in March when they were the 'latest statistics'. But hang on, how do they look three months later? At the end of April the number of people waiting longer than 22 weeks for an outpatient appointment had crept up from 0 to 13 and by the end of May to 47.

The number of people waiting over 22 weeks for admission to hospital had gone up from 5 to 42 and by the end of May, stood at 211.

I don't know how the waiting times look at the end of June but you may want to wish the NHS a happy birthday by pledging to keep an eye out for them.

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