Wales politics

Extra £50m to reduce Welsh NHS waiting times announced

NHS ward Image copyright PA

An extra £50m is to be pumped into the Welsh NHS to reduce waiting times by the Welsh Government.

The new money is aimed at reducing waits for pre-arranged surgery, diagnostics and specialist therapies.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said the cash, which will come from government reserves, will help the NHS deal with extra demand.

But Angela Burns of the Welsh Conservatives said better planning was also required.

Mr Gething said: "The demand on the NHS in Wales, as well as across the other nations in the UK, continues to grow.

"This places additional pressures on the service to deliver timely care for patients."

Image caption Vaughan Gething said the investment will help NHS Wales deal with extra demand

The £50m, which is for the current financial year, is 0.68% of the overall £7.3bn Welsh Government health, wellbeing and sport budget.

The health secretary added: "While I expect health boards to plan and deliver sustainable services that meet the needs of their local populations, the £50m investment I'm announcing will help NHS Wales deal with the extra demand by further reducing waiting times in key areas - such as elective surgery, diagnostics and therapies."

Referrals to hospital-based services have increased by 20% from 2013 to 2016 - from 1.07m in the 12 months ending March 2013 to 1.27m in 12 months ending in 2016, according to the Welsh Government.

The number of people who had been waiting more than eight weeks for diagnostics services stood at 7,252 in May, down from 24,952 in May 2014.

But in May 2010, that figure was much lower at 2,588.

The number of people waiting more than 36 weeks from a GP referral to treatment stood at 12,354 in March 2017. The Welsh Government said this was down from 28,654 in August 2015.

Image caption Angela Burns said suffering endured by patients on waiting lists is "intolerably cruel"

Angela Burns, the Welsh Conservative health spokeswoman, said suffering endured by patients "idling on waiting lists" is "intolerably cruel" and added that "while extra cash is always welcome, it isn't just about money".

"It's about planning and more effective use of existing resources and cutting down on waste," she said.

Ms Burns calls on Mr Gething to "not delay in bringing forward a decisive, innovative and target-led strategy informed by science and the expertise of professional bodies in order to address the perennial issues that hold our health service back".

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru's health spokesman, said the "announcement is a small percentage of the overall budget".

"This is yet another example of the Labour Welsh Government doing too little too late," he said, adding "waiting times have long been a scandal in Wales with patients here enduring far longer waits than their counterparts in Scotland and England over recent years".

UKIP's health spokesperson Caroline Jones said the extra money should result in a "win/win situation" for patients and the NHS.

"The sooner treatment commences for a patient, the demand on both primary and secondary care services lessens," she said.

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