Ambitious plans to end waits of more than 36 weeks for Gwent patients
3:28pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in News
WAITING times of more than 36 weeks from referral to treatment in Gwent will be eliminated by the end of next March under plans drawn up by Gwent health bosses.
But their success depends on hospitals coping with excess winter demand, so beds earmarked for surgical patients are not filled instead by medical admissions.
By August 31, 1,655 patients in Gwent had waited more than 36 weeks since referral to begin treatment, a four-fold increase since March.
Staff shortages, bed pressures, and in some specialties an increase in urgent cases that lengthened waiting times for routine work, are the key reasons.
Aneurin Bevan Health Board is not alone in struggling to limit waits of longer than 36 weeks, and with others in Wales has been asked by the Welsh Government to tackle the issue.
No patient in Wales should wait longer than 36 weeks for treatment, from referral by their GP, but Wales-wide the figure has topped 11,000.
Greater efficiency and productivity among surgical teams is proposed in Gwent, with extra focus on maximising the use of operating theatre sessions.
The plans are ambitious, involving the elimination of waits longer than 36 weeks by December 31 in all but two specialties - urology and oral surgery.
Orthopaedics is a key challenge in this respect, as by the end of August there were 430 patients who had been waiting longer than 36 weeks in this specialty.
Urology had 211 such patients, but a loss of middle grade doctors, consultant sickness, and increased urgent/suspected cancer work means it is likely that waits of longer than 36 weeks will increase before reducing, so the end of next February is its target date.
Increased demand and staff shortages also caused a major backlog of longer waits in oral surgery (518 by August 31). These too will increase before starting to reduce, but the aim is to eliminate longer waits in this speciality by the end of next March.
So far in 2013, more than 700 routine operations have been cancelled in Gwent hospitals due to a lack of beds, and a winter bed plan involving more capacity will be "critical" in ensuring enough beds are available for routine surgery patients, says a health board report.
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