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Surgeons warn that cancelling surgery must be a "last resort" amid record waiting times

23 Sep 2021

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has responded to figures, published today, that show the number of patients waiting for treatment in Wales has now reached 643,108. Surgeons have emphasised that surgical hubs will be vital to help keep surgery going through the winter and to tackle the waiting list.

The latest data, published by the Welsh Government, show there were 643,108 people on the NHS waiting list in July 2021, the highest number since records began. A total of 239,195 patients have been waiting more than 9 months for treatment, an increase on the previous month of nearly 6,000. The largest number of patients waiting are for trauma and orthopaedic surgery, general surgery and urology. These patients may be in considerable pain and unable to carry out day-to-day tasks whilst they wait for their operation.

With COVID cases rising and A&E departments under considerable strain, the College has warned that growing pressures are likely to see more Health Boards in Wales cancelling surgery over the coming weeks. The College says the solution must be to start planning now for surgical hubs to facilitate the elective recovery and ensure that patients are given support while they are waiting for surgery.

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

“Today’s waiting time figures will be distressing for patients who continue to be left suffering in pain. We already know that it will be a difficult winter ahead, as pressures are increasing throughout the system, and elective care is already being cancelled. Waiting lists in Wales will continue to grow and cancelling surgery must be a last resort.

“It will be imperative to plan ahead for this winter to keep surgical services up and running. It is critical that COVID-light surgical hubs receive the investment and staff they need to tackle this growing backlog and support patients throughout the winter.”

Notes to editors

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

2. The College’s Action Plan for the Recovery of Surgical Services in Wales can be viewed here.

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 RCS Press Office:

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