- By Rhodri Lewis
- BBC Wales Political Correspondent
Wales does not have a functioning NHS and people have no faith in it, the head of the doctors’ union claims.
Dr Iona Collins, of the British Medical Association in Wales, said people with chest pain “didn’t even know” whether an ambulance was coming.
The latest figures show a higher proportion of people waiting for treatment for two years or more in Wales than in England.
The Welsh government says it is spending more money to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and cut waiting times.
A patient who gave up waiting for a hip replacement will travel to Lithuania for treatment on Monday, paying £10,000.
Nicky Morris from Aberaman, Rhonda Cynon Taf, waited 18 months before seeing a consultant.
She was then shocked when she called the local hospital, Royal Glamorgan in Llantrisant, for an update and said she had been told no orthopedic surgery had been performed there since 2020.
Mrs Morris asked: “‘Is it safe for me to say that in two years you’ll catch up?”, and said the person she spoke to couldn’t even say that would be the case.
But time was not on Mrs Morris’s side, as she suffers from muscular atrophy which means delaying the surgery could mean she will never be able to walk again.
She was going to Lithuania for private hip surgery, which cost her £10,000 and that meant her partner had to take out a loan to buy his house.
“It will take me five years to pay off this hip replacement, but for the last 35 years I’ve paid National Insurance, I’ve paid taxes. I’ve never been unemployed, never needed the NHS more than I do. right now,” she said.
Ms Morris added: “If I hadn’t gone to Lithuania and waited for the surgery, I have a chance that my underlying condition would now be to the point where I wouldn’t have the muscles to actually walk.
“If I can’t have surgery anymore, that’s it. My life will end at 52.”
‘People have no faith’
Figures for February show more than 37,000 people are waiting more than two years for treatment in Wales, around 5% of those waiting.
This is down from about 60,000 in July last year, or 8% of the total.
But the UK figure is much lower, currently at 0.014%.
Dr Collins told BBC Politics Wales that despite the drop in numbers, Ms Morris’s case was “a sign of failure” and the situation was desperate.
“We don’t have a service working right now. People don’t have confidence in the service,” she said.
“If you have chest pain, you don’t even know if an ambulance has to come. We find the press coverage really tragic when people arrive so late.”
However, Mark Dayan from the health consultancy Nuffield Trust, says there has been some improvement.
He said: “If you look at the figures over the last few months, on the one hand there has been some progress in a number of things in the meantime in Wales.
“They have really improved to get urgent care, and the gap for ordinary people on the waiting list has narrowed in the UK.
“However, when you compare Wales with Scotland and England, the absolute amount of time people wait is still significantly longer, especially at the longest end.”
Of the various figures for longer waiting lists, he added: “It may be true that health services in England and Scotland have put particular emphasis on cutting people waiting longer than before and have achieved some success in that.
“But that’s not a good thing, because there’s actually a really tough moral choice between who’s been on the list the longest and who really needs the most care.”
Age Cymru’s head of policy Heather Ferguson said: “There is much that can be done to reduce the impact of long wait times, such as clinicians providing their patients with advice about reasonable waiting to help prevent the condition from worsening.
“We worry that if the elderly are forced to wait too long for the procedure, their condition will deteriorate, leading to loss of confidence and gradual withdrawal from life.”
Of the thousands of people waiting more than two years for surgery, Health Minister Eluned Morgan told Politics Welsh: “If you look at the percentage drop, especially for those who wait the longest, we are now down 47% from where we are last year.
“We have a long way to go now and what we do know is that the way we count our waiting lists is very different than in the UK.”
The first target around missed outpatient appointments and of course will also miss the second goal is to eliminate the number of people waiting more than two years in most specialties by March 2020. 2023.
Asked if the Welsh government needed to rethink its strategy, Ms Morgan replied: “I think it’s very important that we set very long targets for the health boards.
“We’ve encouraged the health boards to really focus on that. They haven’t acted as quickly as we would have liked, they probably haven’t prioritized in the way we hoped for the longest wait times. and we have regular meetings with them to really motivate them.
She added: “It took a long time to get started and we are now in a situation where the system is moving through these waitlists a lot faster than at the start of the process.
In March, ambulance response times were the second worst in history, with only 47.5% of immediate life-threatening “red” calls being made within the target eight minutes.
This is the 32nd consecutive month that the target of reaching 65% of emergency calls within 8 minutes has not been achieved.
Ms. Morgan said: “I think what we need to realize is the huge increase we’ve seen in demand for the most urgent cases. We’ve seen red calls up 93% since last year. 2019.
“80% of those red calls are answered within 15 minutes. Now that’s not our goal.
“It’s still not good enough and we still need to do better, which is why we’re pouring money into the Welsh ambulance service,” she added.
Of Dr Collins’ comments, a Welsh government spokesman added: “We are proud of our NHS, the first global health system of its kind.
“We have committed more than £1 billion in additions this Senedd term to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and cut wait times.
“We are working with health boards and have set ambitious but realistic targets to address the pandemic backlog of planned care, supported by long-term funding. considerable term.”
Welsh politics is on BBC One Wales, Sunday 23 April, 14:30 BST