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Our Action Plan for Wales

Action plan for the recovery of surgical services in Wales


The latest available data (March 2021) show 221,849 patients waiting more than 36 weeks to start hospital treatment in January 2021, an increase of 712% compared to January 2020.

Restoring planned surgical services in the context of COVID-19 represents one of the most complex challenges that the NHS in Wales has ever faced. Resuming and restoring surgical services in Wales must be a national priority. It is key both to the health of the nation, and our wider economic health.

Our ‘Action Plan for the Recovery of Surgical Services in Wales’ outlines the steps we believe must be taken by any new Welsh Government following the Senedd elections in May.

Key recommendations

  1. The exact number of surgical operations cancelled as a result of the pandemic and the scale of the projected backlog in Wales is unknown. The Welsh Government should undertake modelling and publish projections for the number of people who need an operation in Wales. Forecasting demand is crucial to planning the recovery of surgical services and helping patients understand how long they will be waiting for surgery.
  2. As an immediate priority, the Welsh Government should ensure that all Health Boards urgently consider what measures can be put in place to support patients while they wait for surgery.
  3. The Welsh Government should urgently establish COVID-light sites, with a clear instruction to Health Boards to collaborate and plan strategically across regional boundaries to ensure equity of access to safe surgery for patients. The establishment of COVID-light sites will require significant re-organisation of surgical services and investment from the Welsh Government.
  4. The next Welsh Government should commit to implementing a strategic plan for the recovery of planned surgical services in Wales, overseen by a national planned surgery recovery taskforce and named clinical lead. The recovery plan will need sustained investment in staff and bed capacity, along with support for new models of care such as surgical hubs.
  5. The Welsh Government should immediately undertake a review of the organisation of surgical services across Wales to plan for a more resilient model of care that can better withstand future pandemics, winter and flu outbreaks.
  6. The Welsh Government should urgently invest to increase bed capacity and critical care bed capacity in Wales.
  7. The Welsh Government should ensure that all Health Boards have measures in place to support the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff.
  8. Over the coming months and years, the Welsh Government and Health Education and Improvement Wales should ensure that every opportunity is taken to support surgical trainees to gain experience and training time and complete their training.
  9. Welsh Government should publish monthly planned surgery activity levels for Health Boards in Wales, to encourage the restoration of surgical activity and ensure equity of access to surgical services for patients.

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