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Unprecedented challenge as record numbers waiting over two years for treatment in Wales

24 Mar 2022

Surgeons and a leading patient charity in Wales have warned of the “unprecedented challenge” ahead as figures show a record number of patients are waiting over two-years for treatment in Wales.

The comments from The Royal College of Surgeons of England and Cymru Versus Arthritis come on the day data shows the number of patients waiting over two-years for treatment in Wales has reached a record 56,515.

The Stats Wales data shows 688,836 people were waiting for treatment in January 2022. A total of 56,515 patients have been waiting over two-years for treatment, which is an increase – of 6,823 – on the previous month. In January 2020, there were 462,358 people on the waiting list and 234 of these had been waiting over two years for treatment. The largest number of patients waiting are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment [98,389], general surgery [85,400], ENT [57,227] and urology [41,483].

A total of 170,238 patients have been waiting over 53 weeks for treatment, a slight decrease – of 2,815 – on the previous month.

Commenting on the figures, Miss Susan Hill, a vascular surgeon in Wales and acting Director for Wales at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“Today’s figures demonstrate the unprecedented challenge facing surgical teams and patients in Wales.  There are now 56,515 patients waiting more than two years for treatment, a record number. Within these figures, are 17,504 waiting more than two-years for trauma and orthopaedic treatment – such as hip and knee surgery. These conditions are often debilitating and can cause immense emotional and physical pain.

“Patients need to know there is a plan for the recovery of elective services in Wales. That plan must include strategic direction from the Welsh government to health boards on how to roll out COVID-light surgical hubs across Wales. We must also make sure that NHS staff communicate with patients to keep them informed about how long they will have to wait for treatment, and to make sure they are fully supported during this difficult time.”

Mary Cowern, Director of Cymru Versus Arthritis, said:

“The monthly figures are a constant, stark reminder of the urgent need to bring down orthopaedic waiting times. There are tens of thousands of people with arthritis waiting in severe, disabling pain for life-changing surgery, and the numbers waiting over two years is unacceptable.

“Our helpline and support teams are hearing the shocking real-life stories behind the statistics. People share with us their despair at the length of treatment waits and the impact on their mobility, independence and quality of life. Many are now struggling to leave their home and can no longer do the day-to-day activities that we usually take for granted. It is taking a huge toll on their emotional and mental health.

“We understand the scale of the challenges, but we simply can’t go on like this. The Welsh government needs to publish its recovery plan as soon as possible, but we also need Health Boards to take action in the meantime to speed up progress reopening and rebuilding elective inpatient orthopaedic services.”


Notes to editors

1. Full, historical Stats Wales Referral to Treatment Waiting Times can be found here.

2. 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.

3. About Cymru Versus Arthritis: An estimated 974,000 people (32%) in Wales have a musculoskeletal condition. That’s almost one third of the population, with half of those living in pain every single day. The impact is huge as the condition intrudes on everyday life – affecting the ability to work, care for a family, to move free from pain and to live independently. Yet arthritis is often dismissed as an inevitable part of aging or shrugged off as ‘just a bit of arthritis’. We don’t think that this is ok. Alongside volunteers, healthcare professionals, decision makers and researchers we do everything we can to push back against arthritis. Find out more at:

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