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Surprise rise in Wales waiting lists as two-year wait target is missed

18 May 2023

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is disappointed waiting times in Wales have ticked upwards in March this year following a number of months of declines. New figures show NHS waiting lists in Wales increased to 734,721 in March 2023.


The ‘patient pathway’ data released by Stats Wales cover the time a patient waits from their referral to hospital for treatment. The data include time spent waiting for any hospital appointments, tests, surgery, scans, or other procedures.2


Today’s data show there were 227,967 waiting nine months or more for treatment, which continues a downward trend. The longest waits are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment, 96,508 (a monthly decrease), general surgery, 89,971 (a monthly increase), ENT, 59,648 (a monthly decrease) and urology, 44,498 (a monthly decrease).


Waits of two years or more stood at 31,726* in March 2023, despite the Welsh Government’s target for these to be eliminated by this time. 


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


“There has been good progress in recent months in reducing the number of people on waiting lists and it is bitterly disappointing to see the number tick upwards in these latest figures. It shows there is still a long way to go to bring down the waiting lists in Wales. 


The statistics illustrate the ongoing pressure across the entire health and care system. The target to eliminate waits of two years or more by March this year in most specialties has not been met and we have 31,726 people still waiting over two years. This is particularly disappointing as waiting longer for surgery can have significant negative effects on a patient's physical and mental health, as well as their quality of life. 


“Despite these latest figures, and they are disappointing, I have recently visited several hospitals across Wales and spoken to colleagues from all over the workforce and am encouraged by what I have heard and seen. I am in no doubt we are moving in the right direction although I understand the difficulties we face. Our workforce remains our greatest asset and despite the challenges they face, they are committed to providing the highest level of care to patients across Wales and tackling these waiting lists.”




*Please note that this figure was updated from 27,400 to 31,726 following a correction to the figure in the Welsh Government's press release here.


Notes to editors: 

  1. Full, historical Stats Wales Referral to Treatment Waiting Times can be found here:
  2. 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 say 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
  3. The Welsh Government’s plan to address long waiting lists was published in April 2022 and is detailed here;
  4. 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
  5. For more information, please contact the Press Office:
    Telephone: 020 7869 6053/6054 
    Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056. 

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