WAITING lists for NHS treatment continue to grow in Wales, and have passed the 700,000 mark for the first time.

Delays to treatments were worsened by the pandemic, when many non-essential services were postponed so hospitals could respond to coronavirus.

The Welsh Government, which runs the NHS in Wales, said "more people are coming forward with health concerns" and "this increase in referrals helps to explain why the total waiting lists size increased".

"It should be noted that activity levels for treatment and outpatients are at their highest level since the start of the pandemic," a government spokesperson added.


But Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Russell George called the NHS performance figures "devastating" and criticised the government for pursuing plans to spend money on expanding the Senedd rather than "fixing the NHS and ensuring the hundreds of thousands of people languishing in pain...are treated promptly".

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said ambulance response times were "so poor" and accused the government of "failing time and again to address the crisis in our NHS".

Treatment waiting lists

The number of people waiting to start NHS treatment has passed 700,000 for the first time in Wales.

The unfortunate milestone follows a pattern of nearly continuous growth since the Covid pandemic began, two years ago.

Generally there were around 450,000 people on waiting lists every month for around five years before coronavirus arrived, but lockdown rules forced hospitals to stop non-essential treatments so the NHS could focus on the pandemic, causing waiting lists to get longer and longer.

In Gwent, there are currently 120,155 people waiting to start some form of treatment on the NHS - an increase of 40 per cent compared to February 2020, the month before the pandemic began.

Cancer services

March brought record-high demand for cancer services in Wales, with 15,300 new patients being recommended for treatment following a suspected diagnosis of the illness, including nearly 2,900 in Gwent.

The Welsh Government's target is for at least 75 per cent of people on cancer waiting lists to start treatment within two months of being referred.

But this target was missed in Gwent (59.7 per cent) and across all of the nation's health boards. The Welsh average last month was 58.7 per cent.

The rate at which people are being given the all-clear is improving slightly, however, and it up 11 per cent on February.

Emergency care

Last month brought a slight improvement in waiting times at Wales' A&E departments and also a small drop in demand for such care - but nationwide there were still an average of 2,770 emergency department attendances per day.

Government targets say 95 per cent of patients at A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. But last month that figure nationally was just 65.9 per cent, the third-lowest rate on record.

At the Grange University Hospital - the site of Gwent's only A&E department - the figure was even lower, at 57.9 per cent.

No patient should wait in A&E for longer than 12 hours, according to government targets, but last month saw the target missed for more than 10,000 people in Wales, including more than 1,200 at the Grange.

Demand for ambulances remains high, with an average of 1,262 calls per day across Wales. The government target is for 65 per cent of the most serious or life-threatening callouts to be reached within eight minutes, but last month the figure nationwide was just 52.8 per cent.