NHS Wales waiting times more than double in six months

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Media captionThe Welsh government says the knock-on effects of last winter's bad weather are to blame

The number of patients waiting more than nine months for hospital treatment in Wales has more than doubled in six months, figures show.

The number of patients waiting jumped from 5,414 to 11,672, in the six months since March this year.

The Welsh government wants 95% of patients treated within 26 weeks, but only 88.4% were seen within that time.

It blamed the poor performance on health boards having to treat long-waiting patients.

Opposition parties have claimed the NHS in Wales is in "crisis" and is a "national disgrace".

'Failing to get a grip'

In September the number of patients waiting between 26 and 36 weeks for treatment reached a new high of 36,696, which is 8.8% of the total number of patients waiting.

However, there was a recent improvement with 1,475 (11%) fewer patients waiting more than 36 weeks in September compared with August.

The figures also show:

  • The worst performing health boards were Cardiff and the Vale (85.5%), Betsi Cadwaldr (86.0%) and Cwm Taf (86.9%).
  • The best performing health board was Powys where 99.3% of patients were treated within 26 weeks, but it is responsible for a small number of patients and has no major hospitals.
  • The government targets say 95% of A&E patients should not wait for more than four hours. In September just 90.6% of patients spent under four hours in A&E and 802 patients spent more than 12 hours waiting.
  • The Welsh Ambulance Service failed to hit its target of responding to 65% of the most urgent and life threatening calls within eight minutes for 16 months.
  • Waiting times for cancer treatment have improved, but the most recent figures show the NHS is failing to treat 95% of the most urgent cases within 62 days of diagnosis.

Conservative shadow health minister Darren Millar AM said: "NHS waiting times in Wales passed crisis point weeks ago - yet still Carwyn Jones stands idly by as the elderly and vulnerable suffer most.

"The number of long waits and delays has been rising rapidly for six months and will only get worse."

'Knock-on effect'

Plaid Cymru's Elin Jones said: "This simply isn't good enough and suggests to me that the health minister is failing to get a grip on the NHS."

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Media captionResearchers in Swansea are looking at whether a system which identifies potential patients could ease the burden on accident and emergency

Chief executive of the Welsh NHS David Sissling said in his annual report, published last month, suggested the delays in performing scheduled surgery were a "knock-on effect" of an unexpected surge in demand for urgent care.

He was confident improvements were beginning to be seen.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We are encouraged by the reduction in the number of people waiting over 36 weeks between August and September. This is in line with the recovery plans health boards submitted earlier in the year.

"Despite the slight drop in 26 week performance, which was expected as health boards treat long waiting patients, the majority of patients continue to be seen within this time.

"As always, we expect patients to be treated in order of clinical priority, which is a decision for the relevant clinicians."

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