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Welsh surgeons welcome continued waiting list falls but add a note of caution for 2023

19 Jan 2023

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has welcomed a continued fall in total waiting times in Wales, the second monthly fall. New figures show NHS waiting lists in Wales decreased to 748,271 in November, a decline of 5,020.

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 252,779 waiting nine months or more for treatment, which is a decrease for a second month in a row. The longest waits are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment 101,014 (monthly decrease) general surgery 94,269 (monthly decrease) ENT 63,300 (monthly decrease) and urology 44,747 (monthly increase).

Commenting on the figures, Professor Jon Barry, Director in Wales at The Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“It is incredibly pleasing to see that the figures continue to fall in Wales. It is testament to the incredible efforts by all those in the Welsh healthcare system, and I cannot applaud them enough for this. The Welsh NHS is a team, and this is a team effort.

“The latest figures show a continued retreat from record levels, but we need to welcome this with a note of caution. These figures are from November. They do not include the most recent months where the winter pressures, respiratory illnesses and COVID as well as industrial action will have an impact. I fear that the reality today in 2023 is quite different.

“That is not to say I do not welcome today's release, but when we look and plan, it is only appropriate to recognise the reality of where we are and where we are going. Any horizon scanning we do in the Welsh health system shows a system under pressure with an ageing population and a wider population increasingly in ill-health. Our plans need to reflect this and the pressures this will bring. I am not sure this has happened in the past and that is one of the reasons we are where we are today.

“We will continue to make the case to the Welsh Government on what can be done to improve the system for health colleagues and patients. We need to have a system where the clinicians are listened to on how best to address the problems we face.”

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 NCSOS project was commissioned by the Welsh Orthopaedic Board on behalf of the NHS chief executive Mr Andrew Goodall and commenced its work in September 2021. The NCSOS team have provided 34 immediate actions for health boards to enact to prevent ongoing patient harm, 155 recommendations to ensure transformation of sub specialty clinical pathways, and a long-term blueprint for the future provision of orthopaedic services. NCSOS Report 4: Use existing estate differently was published recently. Home - Welsh Orthopaedic Society
  4. 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.
  5. For more information, please contact the Press Office:
    Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052
    Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.

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