NHS border choice to cut waiting backed by Carwyn Jones
First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he would rather patients be treated outside the Welsh NHS than wait.
On Tuesday, Mr Jones said ministers were "making sure people get their treatment elsewhere".
Between April 2013 and March 2014, 29 patients died while waiting for operations at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales and Morriston Hospital in Swansea.
That was 12 more than the year before, when the Royal College of Surgeons raised serious concerns.
The figures were uncovered by BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme.
Mr Jones told BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales programme ministers were "aware of the cardiac waiting times" and were "taking steps, of course, to deal with them, by making sure people get their treatment elsewhere".
"I'd rather see people get their treatment elsewhere rather than have to wait," he said.
"But there's no getting away from the fact that we've seen, over three years, a seven-and-a-half per cent cut in our budget."'Smoke and mirrors'
He said the Welsh government had to try to maintain services when there was "more and more demand every year".
"A&E demand goes up by about 7% every single year.
"Now we are working on that despite, of course, the fact we're getting less and less money each year from London."
The first minister rejected Conservative suggestions that the Welsh NHS should be been protected from cuts, in line with the UK government's policy for the English NHS.
He said the ring-fenced English NHS budget was "all smoke and mirrors".
"Nobody really believes that health spending has been ring fenced in England except, apparently, the UK government itself," Mr Jones added.
The Welsh Conservatives accused ministers of not doing enough to bring waiting lists down and "get a grip on this crisis".
Shadow Health Minster Darren Millar said: "I welcome the fact that patients will benefit from timely access to treatment, but there can be no denying that this amounts to an admission from the first minister that the Welsh NHS is reeling from Labour's record-breaking budget cuts and can't cope with patient demand.
"Patients are dying on waiting lists for cardiac surgery, and the health of others is deteriorating due to unacceptably long waits for treatment which requires more complex and risky surgery than would have been the case otherwise."