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Surgeons welcome plan to create COVID-light regional hubs in Wales, as the waiting list hits a record 657,539

21 Oct 2021

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has today welcomed plans by the Welsh government to create COVID-light regional hubs in Wales, as new figures show a record 657,539 patients waiting for elective treatment.

The latest data, published by the Welsh Government today, show there were 657,539 people on the NHS waiting list in August 2021. This is the highest number since records began. A total of 243,674 patients have been waiting more than 9 months for treatment, an increase of nearly 4,479 on the previous month. In August 2020, there were 499,103 on the waiting list and 148,907 of these had been waiting more than 9 months.1 The largest number of patients waiting are for trauma and orthopaedic surgery [95,947], general surgery [77,271] and urology [39,085].

The Welsh government warned there will be significant pressures in the health service over the coming months, as it today unveiled its ‘Health and Social Care Winter Plan 2021 to 2022’.2 The report states it will set out longer term strategies for tackling the backlog in November 2021, “including the development of COVID light regional hubs for some settings.”

Miss Susan Hill, a consultant vascular surgeon in Cardiff and acting Director for Wales at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“Today’s waiting times figures are devastating for patients who are waiting for planned hospital treatment. They are also very disheartening for frontline staff who want to help but find resources are stretched and the backlog continues to grow.  We cannot afford for surgery to stop again this winter. The waiting lists are already the highest on record.  If surgery stops, we will be looking at a public health crisis – with people waiting years for planned hip or knee operations, for example.

“It is likely that the ‘double whammy’ of winter flu - and trying to reduce the backlog of elective treatments - will stretch the health service and could lead to further planned operations being postponed.

“One way to bring waiting lists down and give people the operations they desperately need, is to create COVID-light surgical hubs. Surgery can continue safely in these hubs even if there is another spike in COVID admissions, or an outbreak of winter flu.  We therefore welcome this announcement by the Welsh government to develop COVID-light regional hubs.  We also need to invest in training more staff and creating additional hospital bed capacity in Wales.”


Notes to editors

  1. Full, historical Stats Wales Consultant-led Referral to Treatment Waiting Times can be found here.
  2. The Welsh government’s ‘Health and Social Care Winter Plan 2021 to 2022’ can be viewed here.
  3. The College’s Action Plan for the Recovery of Surgical Services in Wales can be viewed here.
  4. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone.
  5. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
  6. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office:

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