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Winter is coming: NHS Wales waiting lists on the rise

23 Nov 2023

Surgeons have warned that winter pressures will place staff under substantial pressure across the healthcare system after figures released by Stats Wales today showed hospital waiting lists continue to rise in Wales, reaching 761,111 in September 2023.

The number of patients waiting 26 to 36 weeks has seen a significant jump to 90,237, a rise of almost 12,000 patients.

The latest figures show slight improvements, with 229,154 patients in Wales waiting nine months or more for treatment, compared to 234,018 in August, while there are now 441,720 patients waiting up to 26 weeks.

Responding to the figures, Professor Jon Barry, Director in Wales at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, warned:

“Waiting times figures in Wales are mounting month on month, which is disappointing for the healthcare staff working incredibly hard to get patients treated quickly in extremely difficult circumstances.

“The waiting game is agonising for patients, with many on the list enduring significant pain and unable to get on with their lives. We also know that longer waits can lead to the need for more complex surgeries for some patients.

“As winter approaches, we urge the Welsh government and health bodies to focus on recruitment and increasing staff satisfaction within the NHS without delay. I cannot speak highly enough of all those in our system, and a drop in the waiting lists next month would be a welcome gift as we approach Christmas.”

Commenting on staff vacancies and retention, Professor Barry added, “Staff retention should be a significant concern for the NHS in Wales, as operations are often cancelled when surgeons are available, but other members of the surgical team are not.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Full, historical Stats Wales Referral to Treatment Waiting Times can be found here:
  3. In March 2016, Stats Wales changed some of the terminology used in referral to treatment reporting. Previously, when publishing these statistics, they used the terminology patients. However, now, it is possible that a person could be on several different lists waiting for different conditions – i.e., there would be one patient but more than one pathway. Due to the RTT dataset being an aggregate data collection, Stats Wales says they are not able to measure the number of unique patients. Therefore, they are using the terminology ‘patient pathways,’ to reflect the fact that one person can be on multiple waiting lists. See more information here.
  4. The Welsh Government’s plan to address long waiting lists was published in April 2022 and is detailed here:
  5. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) provides world-class education, assessment, and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals, and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research, and championing the best outcomes for patients.
  6. For more information, please contact the RCS England press office: telephone: 020 7869 6053/6054/6047; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.

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