Serious concerns at waiting list backlog for follow-up outpatient appointments

Published 31/07/2019   |   Last Updated 31/07/2019

​The National Assembly for Wales' Public Accounts Committee is today publishing a report looking at the management of follow-up outpatient appointments in Wales.

The Committee has outlined serious concerns about health boards' lack of progress at reducing waiting times for outpatient follow up appointments. Typically, follow-up outpatient appointments are for patients who need a review after surgery, management or maintaining chronic conditions, or monitoring signs of deterioration.

The Auditor General for Wales published a report on 31 October 2018 setting out concerns about the management of follow-up outpatients across Wales. The report was the result of a follow up to local audit reviews undertaken in 2015.

The Committee has heard many positive words from health boards about measures being taken since the Auditor General exposed serious failings in 2015, however since then the situation has actually got worse in some areas.

The Committee heard how there are large waiting lists, not all health bodies are reporting data correctly and there is insufficient scrutiny of the extent of waiting times.

During this inquiry the Committee also heard positive evidence about how technology is being used to allow remote monitoring and diagnosis, and how services are being moved into the community. This makes things simpler for patients as they are being treated without having to travel back and forth to hospital. However, this was not the same across all health board areas, there appears to be no consistent sharing of best practice.

The Public Accounts Committee has set out 10 recommendations for the Welsh Government on how to improve the management of outpatients.

Nick Ramsay AM, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee said:

"We are very concerned that the situation regarding outpatients does not appear to be improving and that the picture is mixed across Wales. Delays in these appointments can put patients at risk of harm. Outpatients across Wales should expect the same service, wherever they live.

"The inconsistency of service across Wales is a common theme in health inquiries that we have considered. Time and time again we have found that health boards are not learning lessons from each other or implementing best practice.

"Patients in most instances are best placed to evaluate the level of pain, or whether they have any concerns – and we would like to see the NHS use this information to care for those with the greatest need first and minimise unnecessary appointments.

"Often people are given follow up appointments because that's the way it's always happened. By listening to patients and using technology we can ensure that patients with the greatest need are seen first and that NHS resources are used the most effectively.

"Our report today outlines recommendations for the Welsh Government with improvements that health boards can make."

Read full report here:

Management of follow upoutpatients across Wales