Waits over 18 months lengthen in Wales

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 06 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1696
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Gwent

    More than 2000 people in Wales have been on hospital waiting lists longer than 18 months, according to new government figures.

    That represents a 51% increase on the same time last year and comes more than a decade after waiting list initiatives were pioneered by the Welsh Office. The increase is in contrast to figures for England published recently in the BMJ (30 May, p 1627), which recorded the elimination of all waiting times over 18 months.

    Overall, the figures for Welsh hospitals show that the number of people on waiting lists for inpatients and day cases in Wales has increased by 4% since December, to a total of 73<thin>400. The number of people waiting longer than 12 months is up by 6% on last year, while those waiting for outpatient appointments has dropped by 12%.

    When he announced the figures the Welsh health minister, Win Griffiths, admitted that he was disappointed but said that they did not reflect the recent increased investment in the NHS in the principality.

    “Cutting waiting lists can be compared to stopping a supertanker: it cannot be done quickly,” he said. “I welcome the reduction in the number of people waiting more than six months for an outpatient appointment, but I am disappointed that this progress has not been matched by the numbers waiting for admission.”

    He said that results were also expected soon from pilot schemes at the West Wales General Hospital and the Princess of Wales Hospital, which have been looking at how a more accurate method of assessing the needs of patients could be set up.

    Dr Bob Broughton, the BMA Welsh secretary, said: “There is a long term deficit in bed and manpower provision that must be looked at which will demand some new resources as well as efficiencies like day surgery.”

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