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NHS waiting times: The facts

Referrals to hospital-based services have increased by 20%. Credit: PA

You will have heard in the news today that the Welsh Government is going to spend an extra £50m from its reserves to bring down waiting times in Wales.

It says it's an effort to 'further improve' on the picture here.

It says, "Over the last five years, referrals to hospital-based services have increased by around 20% - from 1.07 million in the 12 months ending March 2013 to 1.27 million in the 12 months ending March 2016."

It's true that demand for NHS services, as in the rest of the UK, is on the rise. An ageing population with more complex, multiple needs requires more and more medical treatment.

The Welsh Government says that despite this demand, "referral to treatment and diagnostic waiting times performance has improved markedly."

£50m is to improve waiting times for elective surgery, diagnostics and therapies. Credit: PA

So what evidence is used to support this?

It says that "the number of people waiting more than 36 weeks from referral to treatment has fallen from 28,654 in August 2015 to 12,354 in March 2017."

This is correct - there was a fall during this time. But the most recent statistics available go up until May 2017. You can read them for yourself here.

They show that the number of people waiting more than 36 weeks from referral to treatment time rose after March 2017. The numbers were 16,587 in April 2017 and 18,210 in May 2017. The last time a figure like that was seen was in September 2016.

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, says it will help 'deal with the extra demand' Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The Welsh Government continues by saying, "the number of people waiting more than eight weeks for a diagnostic test has fallen to 4,741, from a high of 28,000."

Again, this is true. In March the figure was 4,741. The high that is referred to is from January 2014. But let's remember, the figures go to May 2017. So what happened after March? Well, the numbers rose.

In April, the number of people waiting more than eight weeks for a diagnostic test in Wales was 5,562. In May 2017 it jumped again, to 7,252.

The NHS in Wales will always soak up money when it's put into it. Just beware that figures in the headlines, may not always be the most up to date.

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