Wales

Welsh hospital figures show 10,000 waiting six months

Hospital trolley
Image caption The 36-week target is a 'challenge'

More than 10,000 patients in Wales are having to wait more than 26 weeks for hospital treatment, according to the latest figures for June.

Out of 274,515 on the waiting list, 10,154 patients had to wait more than six months.

It is a small improvement on the May 2010 figure, but a worse position than the end of 2009.

The assembly government says that since January 2010, their aim has been to treat 95% of patients within 26 weeks.

They say that "the target for no-one waiting over 36 weeks remains a challenge within certain specialities, and local health boards are working on reaching and sustaining this target."

A total of 96.3% had been waiting less than six months and 99.8% had been waiting less than 36 weeks.

Five years ago there were well over 10,000 patients waiting more than a year for a first hospital appointment, and even longer for actual treatment.

Significant resources were poured into reducing waiting times and hitting the 26-week milestone by the end of 2009.

Although a 100% level was never achieved, the assembly government did manage to exceed its own 'tolerance' level target of 95%.

Since then, the number of patients going over target time has gradually increased, suggesting it may be difficult to maintain in the future as finances become limited.

Alistair Cunnington from Cwmbran, Torfaen, who is waiting for surgery on his knee, received a scan last autumn, but still does not have a date for when an operation can take place.

"It's constant pain," said Mr Cunnington.

"Hours without sleep at night - when I try and get up to try and walk I hobble. I feel 30 years older than I should be."

In April, he received a letter stating that he must contact the hospital to ensure he did not lose an appointment - but his response has still not resulted in a date being set.

"The wait is not good," he added.

"But I think it's the confusion that leads me to the state I'm in now.

"At this point, I don't know whether I'm on the waiting list or off it - it's a frustration."

The assembly government said that since January 2010, the 95% target - which allows for 5% of patients to wait longer on clinical grounds - had been reached in every month.

However, it added that "the target for no-one waiting over 36 weeks remains a challenge within certain specialities, and local health boards are working on reaching and sustaining this target."

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