Case study Jessica: 'The frustration is enormous'
A woman who has lived with chronic pain for years says something needs to be done "urgently" to tackle NHS waiting lists in Wales.
Jessica Ricketts has the painful, long-term conditions endometriosis and fibroids, both of which severely impact her quality of life.
She told ITV News she has been on a waiting list for a hysterectomy for three years - but says there is "no sign" of it happening.
Meanwhile, she has endured various other gynaelogical operations over 12 years in a bid to manage her conditions - but says the frustration of having no resolution is "enormous".
Jessica told ITV News: "With gynae-related problems, they don't get better over time; they don't stay the same - they tend to get worse. So as you're waiting, your situation is only getting worse.
"I feel like my condition is far worse than it was even a year ago. I'm back and forth to the hospital for various scans. I've been admitted just for pain relief only last month. So I'm costing the NHS even more while I wait for my surgery."
Endometriosis is a painful, long-term condition that affects one in ten women but is often severely under-diagnosed.
Those living with it say it can affect everything from their relationships and work, to their social life and even their ability to leave the house.
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The full scale of the enormous challenge facing our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers has been revealed today, along with sharp criticism of Welsh Government's handling of the NHS.
For the first time, more than 700,000 of us are now on a waiting list for treatment - and more of those people are waiting longer than ever before.
However, newly-diagnosed cancer patients and those starting cancer treatment within a month increased by 12.4% on the last figures.
Part of the Welsh Government's plan to tackle these ongoing pressures is to set up an NHS executive body - but doctors have criticised the idea, saying more treatment is needed, not more managers.
Jessica added: "I understand that people need to be put to the top of the list - things like cancers, obviously they have to be prioritised.
"But women's health in particular - it's at the bottom. And we are always at the bottom of the pile as women. We're fighting to see the GP, we're fighting for the GP to believe us. I had five GP visits before I even got referred to a gynaecologist - this was over ten years ago - and the situation has only got worse.
"They blame Covid for all of the waits, but it was like this before. Covid's only made it a lot worse, but there were major issues in the system before then.
"Something needs to be done urgently - for everybody. It can't continue like this, because every day new people are being added on to that list."
Before becoming self-employed, Jessica said she previously had to struggle into work through her pain.
She has now owned her own bridal shop in Barry, in the Vale of Glamorgan, for six years, and says she can manage her hours around her pain.
But she added: "At the same time, when you're self-employed, you have a lot of pressure - because you're the one making the money."
In response to the waiting times, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: "As the health service continues to recover from the pandemic, and more people are coming forward with health concerns, we have seen the highest number of referrals for a first outpatient appointment since January 2020, with just over 115,000 referrals made in March.
"This increase in referrals helps to explain why the total waiting lists size increased by 1.4% on the previous month. It should be noted that activity levels for treatment and outpatients are at their highest level since the start of the pandemic.
"The number of outpatients appointments in March, was the highest since January 2020 (255,384). On top of this, the numbers of inpatient and day case treatments were the highest since the start of the pandemic.
"The number of patient pathways closed in March - that is, people who have started or no longer require treatment - was the highest since the start of the pandemic, 1.7% more per day on average than in February."