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Recovery of surgical services biggest challenges facing NHS in Wales

23 Mar 2021

Speaking ahead of a debate in the Senedd today on ‘Covid-19: One Year On’, Mr Richard Johnson, Royal College of Surgeons of England Director in Wales, said:

“There is no doubt the recovery of surgical services is one of the biggest challenges the NHS in Wales has ever faced.

“There are now over half a million people waiting for treatment in Wales.

“The NHS in Wales published an NHS Recovery Plan earlier this week which is disappointingly short on the detail of how this backlog will be tackled. It will do little to reassure those who are waiting in pain and suffering for an operation in Wales.

“We are urging the NHS in Wales to carry out detailed modelling about the scale of the waiting times backlog in Wales with plans for how long this will take to clear. We need to have an honest conversation with patients about how long they will be waiting for surgery. We also need to bear in mind the health and wellbeing of the workforce.

“We have published our own Action Plan for Surgical Services in Wales with concrete recommendations to reduce the waiting times backlog. We would urge all candidates in the Senedd elections to consider our recommendations as a matter of urgency.”

The ‘Action Plan for Surgical Services in Wales’ recommends the following:

1. The Welsh Government should undertake modelling and publish projections for the number of people who need an operation in Wales.

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.

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.

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.


Notes to editors

1.         The Royal College of Surgeons of England’s ‘Action Plan for Surgical Services in Wales’ is available to read here:


2.         The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance patient care. We support over 28,000 members in the UK and internationally by improving their skills and knowledge, facilitating research and developing policy and guidance.


3.         For more information, please contact the RCS England press office: telephone: 020 7869 6047 or 020 7869 6041; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries: 020 7869 6056.


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