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Clear plan needed to avoid a postcode lottery of surgical care

19 Nov 2020

Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting time statistics in Wales published today show over 55,000 waiting more than a year for elective hospital treatment in September. The figure has increased more than eight times since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, when 6,722 were waiting more a year.

Commenting on the figures, Mr Richard Johnson, Director for Wales of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said:

“These figures are devastating. There are now over 55,000 waiting more than a year for treatment in Wales. Waiting many months for surgery, in pain and suffering, can have a shattering impact on a person’s life.

“Our members in Wales have been telling us for some time that elective surgical services in Wales are patchy and inconsistent. These figures show us that some specialties in some parts of Wales have been particularly badly affected. It’s crucial we establish a clear plan for the recovery of surgery in Wales to avoid a postcode lottery of surgical care.

“Stopping elective surgery during the first wave of COVID created an enormous backlog of operations, in a system that was already overstretched. Although frontline staff have made huge efforts to get surgical services going again, it has been impossible to catch up.

“We need to explore every option to keep surgery going this winter, and beyond that a longer term plan to eliminate the backlog. We are urging the establishment of ‘Covid-light’ sites across Wales to separate elective and emergency care, deliver a high volume of elective surgery all year round and to provide trainees with time in theatre, enabling them to become our future consultants who will be key to the long-term plans. Consideration should also be given to using independent sector beds for NHS patients, and investing in operating theatre capacity.”


Notes to editors

1. RTT statistics for September were published at 09.30am this morning here:

2. The stats show a substantial increase in long waits, with 55,178 patients waiting over 53 weeks for treatment in September 2020, compared to 6,722 in February 2020 and 4,311 in September 2019, representing an 8-fold increase since the start of the pandemic and a 12-fold increase year-on-year.

3. 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.

For more information, please contact the Press Office: Tel. 0207 869 6047/6052; email: For out-of-hours media enquiries, please telephone: 0207 869 6056.

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