People who are on an NHS waiting list in Wales need urgent help and support. That is a key recommendation from the Senedd’s Health Committee.
The Committee is today launching a report, outlining its findings after an inquiry looking at NHS waiting times and the situation facing many patients in Wales.
People from across Wales have given distressing evidence to the Committee, sharing their experiences of waiting for diagnosis, care and treatment and the real impact it is having on their lives.
The Welsh Government has admitted that COVID-19 has had a big impact on waiting times and today the Senedd’s Health and Social Care Committee laid down a series of recommendations to tackle the backlog, and support people who are waiting.
The Committee is clear that although waiting times have been hit hard by the pandemic, the backlog was a serious problem before the effect of Covid-19 on the health service.
Behind the waiting lists and statistics there are harrowing stories of people’s struggles while waiting for treatment and care. Members of the Committee have heard detailed accounts of the impact the backlog is having on individuals and their lives.
Jill Davies from Swansea experienced 4 years of misdiagnosis and poor communication from the local health board, leading to an extreme deterioration in her quality of life, poor mental health and ultimately left her feeling like she had no option but to travel abroad to seek private surgery.
After misdiagnosis and poor communication, Jill told the Committee:
“I was told that the waiting time was 3 years… most likely 5. It was at this point, (and I don’t cry easily) that I burst into tears. I am 65 and can barely walk now, so what am I going to be like by the time I get an operation?
“The feeling I got then was that they were happy to leave me for 3 years and just let me rot away in the corner.
“I am frustrated. Communication was awful – there could be some easy communications in place to keep people updated, and maybe suggest some places for help, third sector organisations or support groups.
“I am used to communicating with people in my professional life. I just didn’t get anywhere when I tried. You felt dumped and for some people that is going to be a big problem. You gradually and gradually sink a little bit lower each time, left in utter limbo.”
Jill eventually travelled abroad for a successful operation, where private treatment was cheaper.
Support for those waiting
In January 2022, there were 688,836 people in Wales waiting to start treatment. This is an increase of 51 per cent on March 2020.
In addition to setting out how the waiting times backlog should be addressed, the Committee is calling on the Minister for Health and Social Services to ensure that the Welsh Government’s COVID-19 recovery plan includes a focus on supporting patients to ‘wait well’.
The Committee is also asking the Welsh Government to promote awareness among people who are waiting for care or treatment of the support available to them from alternative primary and community care services.
Russell George MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Health and Social Care Committee said:
“The situation facing those needing treatment and care in Wales is bleak. People were already waiting too long before the pandemic and although COVID-19 has undoubtedly made the problem worse, the backlog in the NHS needed tackling and people need support and regular communication while they are waiting.
“The equivalent of 1 in 5 people in Wales are currently on a waiting list for diagnosis or treatment. That is a shocking statistic, with serious implications both for the performance of our health service and levels of ill health in Wales.
“Our Committee has heard harrowing stories behind the statistics. Individuals whose daily lives—and potentially those of their families, friends or carers—are being affected by delayed diagnosis or care. People experience pain, distress, discomfort and anxiety and their needs may also become more complex.
“Some people may deteriorate and need acute or emergency care. Against a backdrop of rising costs of living, people who are unable to work or whose outgoings have increased as a result of their condition may face increasing financial uncertainty. Others may be unable to undertake their usual caring responsibilities.
“Now is the time for action and not just words. We want to see backlogs being tackled and people on waiting lists being treated with respect and looked after while they are waiting.
“It is time for a post-pandemic reset, which doesn’t aim to return to where we were in March 2020, but instead looks to the future, with a renewed focus on innovation, on genuine and sustainable service transformation, and on prevention and tackling health inequalities, so that no one is left behind.
“Our report today provides a list of recommendations for the Welsh Government to tackle these serious problems facing Welsh patients.”
The Committee has outlined a series of recommendations Welsh Government also covering:
- The interaction between health and social care services
- The importance of data to tackling the backlog, and the need for health boards to work together more effectively
- Health inequalities
- The health and social care workforce
The impact of the waiting times backlog on people in Wales
Discover the recommendations of the Health and Social Care Committee for tackling the waiting list backlog, and supporting people who are waiting.