NHS Wales waiting times hit record levels as half a billion pounds of extra funding announced

NHS waiting times for non-urgent treatments hit a record high in June, new figures released show Credit: PA Images

NHS waiting times for treatment in Wales hit a record high in June, new figures have revealed.

There were 624,909 people on the waiting list for non-urgent treatments. Of those 233,210 were waiting more than nine months - ten times more than before the pandemic

The Welsh NHS and social care system has now been allocated £551m of extra funding to tackle the ongoing pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS waiting times have increased by a third overall, while mental health services waiting times have doubled in the last year.

The number of people going to A&E last month was 91,910 - higher than pre pandemic levels and highest since July 2019.

In A&E more than 7000 patients in July spent longer than twelve hours waiting to be seen.

Mental health services have also experienced a backlog.

Glenn Page from Mind Cymru has said almost two-third of people's mental health has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic, with a range of societal groups being affected.

Around 14,000 spent longer than eight hours and 28473 (30.2%) of patients waited longer than four hours.

There were close to 44,000 emergency calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service - which saw the highest daily average number of calls since the pandemic began.

The Welsh Government says it has allocated £411m for ongoing costs of dealing with the pandemic until April 2022 and £140m for recovery and tackling waiting times.

Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said,

“The extreme pressure facing the social care sector, especially in terms of workforce, is compounding the current situation within the NHS. A whole-system approach is needed to tackle these challenges including a long-term, sustainable plan for social care"

Dr Suresh Pillai, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Wales warns,

"We are quickly approaching Autumn and Winter when these pressures and demand are likely to further increase. Staff are already facing burnout, exhaustion, stress and moral injury. The health service and its workforce need the assurance that there is a robust and comprehensive plan to manage this likely increase in demand and provide adequate resources for staff and departments"

Both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have criticised the Welsh Government for not dealing with long waiting times, which was an issue prior to the pandemic starting last year.

A record number of patients in Wales are now waiting for treatment due to the pandemic. Credit: PA Images

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said the pandemic has had a "massive impact" on health and social care services in Wales and the money would go towards paying for the vaccination programme, testing, PPE, and new cleaning standards for infection control.

"The knock-on effect from dealing with the pandemic has also been huge", the Health Minister said.

"Getting back to where we were before the pandemic is going to take a lot of time and investment in new ways of working. So we are also providing an extra £140m to the NHS for this work".

However, Plaid Cymru say a "gear change" is needed by the Welsh Government to avert what they say could be a mental health crisis in the middle of a public health crisis.

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and care Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: "It is astonishing that waiting times for mental health services have increased once again with the number of patients waiting over 4 weeks for their first appointment doubling in just a year.

"We know that access to mental health provision was already seriously lacking before the pandemic and whilst Covid-19 may have added to the challenges, this is not a new problem"

Meanwhile the Welsh Conservatives reiterated their call for a formal inquiry into the Welsh Government's handling of the pandemic.

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: "This funding is much welcomed but well overdue. It must not be forgotten that these very long waiting times were built up long before the pandemic and Labour's failure to fix the roof while the sun was shining has led to hundreds of thousands of patients paying the price.

"It is essential that this money does not run simply run out and there must be a long-term view to ensuring that we are not again in a position when one fifth of the population in Wales are expecting treatment".

Mental health services waiting times: a growing issue

New figures published today from Stats Wales show that the average number of patients waiting over four weeks for their first sCAMHS (Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) had doubled since 2020.

Meanwhile, upon comparing the average number of patients waiting up to 4 weeks for their first CAMHS appointment for the period between January and July 2020, with the same period in 2021, the average number of patients has increased by 14.83%. 

The new funding announcement comes in addition to the £100m funding announced in May to support the Welsh Government's Health and Social Services Covid Recovery Plan.

"£100m will be used to help health boards' recovery plans, including speeding up the treatment of those who have been waiting the longest", the Health Minister said.

"While £40m is for equipment and adapting hospitals and other buildings to increase capacity for routine procedures, whilst maintaining Covid safe areas."

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