Woman with pain so bad she faints waits four years for NHS surgery

Juliette Anderson tells ITV Wales she is "struggling mentally".

Juliette's pain is so bad she will often faint. She knocked her teeth on one occasion.

Her family are worried about leaving her alone so they take it in turns to stay with her. Nine out of ten times Juliette will collapse in the bathroom, so her son Josh has redesigned it, hoping that she won't hit her head on something solid on the way down.

They are called non-epileptic pain-related seizures brought on by Juliette's endometriosis. She has waited since 2018 to have the two operations she needs to solve her problems.

"I'm struggling now mentally," she says. "I've got worse; I can't leave the house, I'm not living, I'm just existing. Every day is like lockdown for me."

Juliette was told she would get a date for her operations "within months" in 2018. She's still waiting.

The family have discussed paying for private treatment but the costs are too high.

Juliette Anderson and her son Josh. Credit: ITV News

Juliette is one of the 692,000 people in Wales waiting to start treatment. 

The waiting list has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. Between February 2020 and February 2022 it has risen by 50%.  

Now, the Welsh Government has revealed its plan for dealing with the treatment backlog over the next four years.

Health boards will receive an extra £15 million a year on top of the money already pledged and a target of nobody waiting more than a year in most specialities by Spring 2025.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: "Reducing waiting times will require new solutions, more equipment, new facilities and more staff to help diagnose people quickly as part of an effective and efficient planned care service."

There is also a plan to increase the number of virtual appointments in the NHS with a goal of 35% of all new appointments and 50% of follow-up appointments being delivered virtually in future.

The health minister is aiming for a target that no one will wait over a year for their first outpatient appointment by the end of 2022

Among the targets in the plan are:

  • No one will be waiting longer than a year for their first outpatient appointment by the end of 2022

  • Eliminating two-year waiting times in most specialities by March 2023

  • No one will be waiting more than a year in most specialties by Spring 2025

  • 80% of people to receive their cancer diagnosis and start treatment within 62 days by 2026.

The announcement was met by cautious optimism by some working in healthcare.

Professor Jon Barry, interim director for Wales at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "Surgeons have been working hard to get elective services back up and running, but Covid-19 is still disrupting our efforts.

"The targets set by the plan are important, so we are calling for an annual report to the Senedd to track progress.

"However, we have concerns that some targets only relate to some specialties, potentially leaving other patients without a clear idea of when they can expect to be treated.

"Also, we know our workforce is over-stretched, and we need solutions to the long-standing issue of staff vacancies.

"Delivering on the targets in the plan must not come at the expense of staff welfare."

Patients are also facing long waits for dental appointments in Wales

NHS dentistry has also been affected by the Covid backlog, with patients in Wales facing long waits for an appointment.

Russell Gidney, a dentist from Chepstow and a member of the British Dental Association, said some practices were having to work at half their capacity.

He explained: "We're looking at probably seeing around half of our established patient base over the course of a year, because what has been focused on is trying to give access to people that haven't been seen.

"But obviously we were busy pre-Covid, we can't do everything we were doing pre-Covid and see new patients as well.

"The NHS dental budget is capped. So it's not a case of me saying 'well do you know what, I've got another thousand patients here I'm going to see another thousand patients, I'll get another dentist in.'

"There simply isn't funding. Back in the good old days we could have done that. But the budget is capped at a fixed level so we can't start doing more work."

The Welsh Government will work to a target to have more virtual GP appointments

The Welsh Conservatives questioned some of the practicalities around the Government's aims, with concerns over the push for more virtual appointments.

Speaking on ITV Cymru Wales' Sharp End, MS for Brecon and Radnorshire Fay Jones said: "Innovation is fantastic, but we need the broadband in the first place and so it was really disappointing that the Welsh Government has decided to withdraw some funding for broadband installation in rural Wales.

"Again that's something where I would think that needs more money and more effort, so let's do what we can to get people in rural areas connected."

Plaid Cymru's health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth said a better linking of the health and social care systems was important if the health service was to properly function.

He said: "What I want to see in Welsh Government's plan is a joined up approach that really does bring health and social care together.

"There are measures that are needed within the NHS...but I think we have to deal with what happens at the back door of hospitals too.

"We have increasing funding, resources within social care, helping local government in particular so that the pressure can then be taken off hospitals so that they can deal with more patients."

As for Juliette, she will be meeting with her doctors in September but she still has no date for her operations. Until then, she says, her life is on hold.

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