Health minister calls for 'patience' over NHS Wales waiting list backlog as 'staff are on their knees'
Watch the full interview with Health Minister Eluned Morgan
Wales' new health minister Eluned Morgan has urged people to ''be patient'' as she promises to tackle NHS waiting lists impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 568,367 patients in Wales were waiting for planned treatment in March 2021, including surgeries such as hip and knee replacements, post-mastectomy breast reconstructions and ear, nose and throat operations.
This is the highest number on record since data first started being collected in 2011.
Speaking to ITV Cymru Wales, Ms Morgan said: "I think it's important to manage expectations. We will not be able to flick a switch and see this being changed overnight.
''But I am intensely aware that there are literally tens of thousands of people who are suffering, who are in pain and who need our support."
The health minister said the NHS in Wales have clinical priorities, with those with conditions like cancer or who have suffered strokes being prioritised.
But she said the Welsh Government need to ''address the issues'' of those who do not fall into these categories and are waiting for treatment.
More than a year into the pandemic, Ms Morgan said staff within the NHS also need time to recover from the strain it has brought before tackling the backlog.
She hinted that those on waiting lists should be prepared to continue waiting.
She said: "They are exhausted.
''We have made sure we've put measure in place to support them, we've put a lot of mental health support in for them but of course they will need some time to recuperate, which is why we are going to have to ask the Welsh people be patients because these are the only people who can get us to a better place.''
On Monday, Wales' Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton warned that cases of the variant are expected to rise. So far, there have been 57 cases identified here.
Ms Morgan said health teams are focused on where the outbreaks are and if necessary, vaccinations will be sped up in those areas.