Wales

NHS Wales: Waiting times worse than in England

Hip x-ray Image copyright Thinkstock

NHS patients in Wales wait longer for treatment and diagnosis than patients in England for most of the main categories, BBC Wales can reveal.

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.

Diagnosis of heart disease takes on average 10 days longer in Wales.

Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething called for a focus on the results of treatment, not just waiting times.

Waiting times for hip surgery have deteriorated significantly in Wales over the past four years. Since 2011/12, the average wait has risen by a fifth for the nearly 6,000 people who had hip operations in 2014/15.

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

Diagnosis of pneumonia takes two weeks longer in Wales and waits for stomach operations 12 days longer.

There were minimal differences in waits for heart procedures, diagnosis of cancer and head injuries, while waits for kidney operations were less in Wales than in England.

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.

The difference in waiting times since 2011/12 and 2014/15 has narrowed significantly for heart operations but has grown for hip and cataract operations, and the diagnosis of hernias.

More than 40,000 routine orthopaedic operations take place in Wales every year.

But the numbers waiting more than six months for treatment has been increasing since 2012, and in 2015 a national plan for improving orthopaedic care was launched by the deputy health minister.

The NHS in Wales has also been tackling the backlog of cardiac patients on the waiting list.

Mr Gething said he did not accept there had been failings in the Welsh NHS, but added: "I know we have more to do.

"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."

The Welsh NHS Confederation, which represents local health boards and trusts, said waiting times "capture only one part of what the NHS does".

"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," a spokesman said.

"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."

The Conservatives said the statistics were "further evidence of the damaging legacy of Labour's cuts, closures and downgrades".

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said: "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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Media captionWelsh patient John Berni, said he was shocked at his nine-month wait for a hip replacement

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "Time after time Labour ministers have ducked and dived, claiming statistics aren't comparable.

"Yet these figures are stark, and make it explicitly clear that waiting lists are much longer in Wales than in England.

"After 17 years, Labour's legacy on the NHS is one of failure. They should be ashamed of these figures and, quite frankly, the people of Wales deserve an apology.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats will deliver an NHS that puts patients first."

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: "Month on month, the Labour Welsh government fails to achieve its targets for routine matters such as cancer treatment waiting times, referral to treatment waiting times and waiting times for crucial diagnostic tests.

"Labour's inability to plan the workforce properly, tackle blockages in the system and meet its targets is putting NHS workers under incredible daily pressure.

"Plaid Cymru plans to drive down waiting times by increasing capacity in the health service through training and recruiting 1,000 extra doctors in Wales, by establishing three dedicated diagnostic centres across Wales, and by fully integrating health and social care services to improve patient flow from admission and beyond."

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