Around 30,000 people in Wales are waiting more than two years after being transported to hospital for treatment because another key target was missed.
By March, no patient in most specialties had had to wait so long as NHS Wales tried to deal with the post-Covid backlog.
But official figures show that 31,406 patients have fallen short of the target.
About 576,000 patients are on the waiting list, up 2,000 after falling in the previous five months.
This month’s hospital waiting times have been adjusted to be equivalent to those of the UK.
But they still make reading grim for the longest waits.
Health Secretary Eluned Morgan stressed that more needs to be done to eliminate the longest wait.
“The NHS’s day-to-day work is done by well-paid executives on the health board, whose duty it is to get done,” she told BBC Wales.
“I’m going to take my share of the responsibility and I do it every day of the week in Senedd. But I think others need to understand that they have a responsibility too. And what’s clear is that some of the health departments are doing a lot of good work. better than others.”
The NHS Wales Federation, which represents health boards, said the cuts were continuing for the longest time.
“While the situation is far from ideal, it is the lowest level in almost two years and shows how far the NHS has come and the extraordinary efforts of staff,” it said.
Although the number of people waiting more than two years in Wales has now dropped on a monthly basis over the past year, they still make up 4.8 per cent of all people on the list.
There are still 31,406 two-year patient pathways in consultant-led specialties. This is still far behind in the UK, where only 559 patients waited two years or more (0.01% of those waited that long).
At its peak in England 14 months ago, there were 24,424 patients waiting more than two years, not as high as in Wales now.
The Welsh Government said if a group of seven “particularly challenging” specialties, including orthopedics, dermatology, general surgery, ophthalmology and otolaryngology, were excluded because they were “difficult to clear”, then 4,300 patients will have to wait for two years. list.
The post-pandemic recovery target was set a year ago, although those majors are not included, which includes 86% of those waiting two years.
The number of people waiting for treatment at the hospital, after referral, has increased after decreasing for 5 consecutive months.
There are still 734,721 “patient paths” on the list – this is about 576,000 actual patients, when those on multiple waitlists are counted.
When the figures are adjusted – to include only experts led by consultants and offer therapy and diagnosis – to make it easier to compare with the UK, this shows 653,504 routes.
Those waiting more than a year for treatment continued to fall – almost 11,000 for the month – to 133,218 – the lowest figure in two years.
Carol and Doug Williams from Glyncoch near Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, said they waited three years for Carol to receive treatment after she fell and broke her knee.
The couple claimed Carol was considered a “clinical medical emergency” and that she would need surgery to repair the damage but her appointment for surgery never came.
In the following months, when she was unsteady on her feet, Carol fell again. This time broke a vertebra and her pelvis. This will also require surgery.
But the 79-year-old is still waiting and relies on a frame and wheelchair to get around and has largely stayed at home.
She said: “I felt like, ‘is it going to end?’ I said to the doctor, ‘If I can have a pain-free day, I’ll cherish it.’ But nothing.”
Doug, a Labor councilor, said he was frustrated trying to figure out his wife’s place on the waiting list and how it had affected his own mental health.
“I don’t think the medical board appreciates the reality, the impact of an operation on families, relationships. It’s tragic.”
Medical board apologizes for the waiting time
Orthopedic cases account for about a third of the longest waits.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg – along with Cardiff and Vale – has a waiting period of at least two years for orthopedic surgery by health boards in Wales.
But it said the effects of the pandemic are still being felt, and this has resulted in longer wait times than desired:
“We apologize to Mrs Williams, her family and anyone else in our community who are facing increased waiting times for surgery,” it said.
It said it will continue to take proactive steps to reduce waiting lists.
Another key post-pandemic recovery goal for NHS Wales – that no one has to wait more than a year for an outpatient appointment – continues to be missed, although the numbers have improved in the month. seven in a row.
There are still 52,925 patients waiting more than a year, a decrease of more than 10,000 monthly.
Ambulance response times improved above the second worst on record with 53% of immediate life-threatening “red” calls made within eight minutes in April.
The average response time to “red” calls is 7 minutes 36 seconds – 48 seconds faster than last month.
A&E wait times improved slightly over the month.
Compared to the four-hour target, 70.2% of people were admitted, transferred, or discharged within that time frame.
Meanwhile, 8,949 people spent 12 or more hours in A&E before being seen – no one had to wait that long according to current goals, but this is an improvement from last month.
Adjusted for population, more patients waited longer than 12 hours at Betsi Cadwaladr than at any other medical board.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Wales said: “We are out of winter but still in a state of crisis.”
Cancer efficacy metrics improved for the second straight month after we saw our worst month since the new target was introduced.
A total of 55.3% of people started their first treatment in March within 62 days of their first suspicion of cancer.
That rate is as low as 44.5% in the Hywel Dda health panel.
What was the response?
The Health Secretary said she had written to health boards to express “disappointment that they have not met their target for people who have waited more than two years for treatment”.
Ms Morgan added: “I would like to see more innovation, like at Ysbyty Gwynedd, where more than 90% of breast cancer surgeries are performed on the same day, allowing patients to be managed more efficiently and recover more comfortably. better and earlier at home.”
Welsh Conservatives health spokesman Russell George said: “Currently, there are three times more people waiting two years in Wales than 18 months waiting in England, despite England having 18 times the population. times we.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth, a spokesman for the Plaid Cymru health agency, said it showed “a profound inability to capture the deadlock in our NHS”.
Cymru British Medical Association president Dr Iona Collins said the figures were a “clear reminder of the failures of the NHS in Wales” and said it needed staff and resources.
A question must be asked about the merits of a goal that should never include the majority of patients.
The word “most majors” does not include fields that even before the pandemic faced real challenges.
Any patient sitting at home on one of these lists will be desperate for news – desperate not to be forgotten.
Today they know that they don’t even count as part of the goal.
But the health minister has set a new target for health boards – that 99% will be on treatment by the end of the year.
More realistic perhaps, but less comforting for those whose health has deteriorated dramatically in the meantime.
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