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Welsh surgeons call for urgent action to avert a crisis in the NHS this winter as waiting lists reach over three quarters of a million

20 Oct 2022

A lead surgeon has issued a stark warning to the Welsh Government as new figures show NHS waiting lists in Wales increased again to a record high of 750,283 in August.  
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.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England has long called for dedicated surgical hubs, or ‘elective centres’, in Wales. These hubs will help to speed up patients’ access to planned surgery and build in the extra capacity needed to address increasing waiting lists. 
Today’s data show there were 271,165 waiting nine months or more for treatment, which is an increase – of 2,553 – on the previous month. The longest waits are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment 102,209, general surgery 93,476, ENT 62,927 and urology 44,364. ENT has seen a small drop on the July figures, but the other areas continue to increase. 
Commenting on the figures, Professor Jon Barry, Director in Wales at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:  
“The Welsh Government recently announced its approach to winter pressures and these figures show just how much pressure the Welsh NHS will be under.   We must act now to avert a crisis in the NHS.  
“Once again, we see record numbers on planned waiting lists, with the latest figures from August. We are now over three quarters of a million patient pathways waiting. The months ahead will be very tough for NHS staff, the wider health service and patients who are waiting for treatment, if decisive action is not taken. 
“Despite the best efforts of a hard-pressed and dedicated workforce, the NHS in Wales still has not managed to return to pre-pandemic activity levels. These figures show that is now very unlikely to happen for many months to come.  
“Workforce issues continue to hamper efforts in areas such as surgery where operations cannot go ahead if there are no available staff. A theatre operates with a team, not just a surgeon, and missing one team member can result in an operation being cancelled..  
“Issues around bed provision remain for planned surgery with the demand from emergency care continually impacting planned operations.  
“The RCS England remains of the view that a new approach is needed. We will be continuing our campaign for regional surgical hubs, or elective centres, across Health Board boundaries in Wales.” 

Notes to editors

1. Full, historical Stats Wales Referral to Treatment Waiting Times can be found here: Patient pathways waiting to start treatment by month, grouped weeks and stage of pathway ( 
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 a number of 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. 

3. 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.  
4. For more information, please contact the Press Office:  

Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6054
Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056. 

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