NHS organisations in Wales are taking immediate and direct action to address waiting times and improve patient outcomes by working innovatively and in partnership.

Doctor consulting with patient

The NHS continues to experience the most challenging period in its history. The pandemic severely reduced the service’s productivity and is still hindering its ability to recover at a time when the backlog for physical and mental health services grows. These significant waits for planned care are having a damaging effect on patients’ lives, however NHS leaders and staff are working tirelessly to work through the backlog with the finite financial and staff resource available to them.

During the pandemic, NHS organisations demonstrated they could innovate at pace, with that same creative thinking being applied to reducing waiting lists. This latest briefing from the Welsh NHS Confederation showcases best practice examples of how NHS organisations in Wales are addressing the planned care backlog, including helping patients to ‘wait well’. For example, the Wellness Improvement Service launched in Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board provides non-medical intervention to improve people’s health and wellbeing while on certain waiting lists.

In Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, the project to target patients with Heart Failure with Reduced Ejection Fraction (HFrEF) has reduced the average waiting time for a first appointment by six weeks and the average waiting times for first and second outpatient appointments by 50 per cent. Furthermore, 97 per cent of patients in the trial were not readmitted with a primary diagnosis of heart failure and the reduction in readmissions resulted in cost savings of £260,208.

Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, Darren Hughes, said:

“NHS leaders across Wales know we have a huge challenge ahead to get to grips with the planned care backlog as a result of the unrelenting Covid pandemic. The case studies in our briefing evidence just some of the hard work, innovation and service transformation that is going on across the NHS in Wales.

Although waiting lists continue to grow, the rate of growth is slowing month on month. Considering the impact of the pandemic, with patients coming forward at a later stage, there is a case for cautious optimism.

However, in order to make real strides in planned care waiting times, we need to address the capacity gap across financial resilience, capital investment and the health and care workforce. The NHS is full of committed staff and leaders, but they cannot work miracles and are doing all they can with the resources they have.

We must also recognise the huge pressures across the whole system, on GPs, pharmacies, and other community services, as well as the number of patients unable to be discharged from hospital because of the ongoing pressures facing social care. Without long-term, sustainable investment in the social care sector, there is only so far the NHS can go in improving patient flow through hospitals and providing timely care."

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