The Health and Social Care Committee of the Welsh Parliament have published a report with several recommendations to address the rising issue of waiting time for diagnosis and therapy in Wales.
Since Covid-19 pandemic Wales has witnessed a significant increase in the NHS waiting lists for diagnostic and therapy appointments and surgical treatment. The report noted that the equivalent of around one in five of the Welsh population is on an NHS waiting list, and around 37 per cent of people waiting to start treatment have been waiting over 9 months.
As part of its recommendations, the Senedd committee has asked the Welsh government to include ‘a focus on supporting patients to wait well’ in its planned care recovery plan, in addition to setting out how the waiting times backlog will be addressed.
“It is crucial that the Welsh Government and health boards put in place robust plans to tackle the backlog, and to ensure that people receive the care and treatment they need as soon as possible. This must include arrangements to support people who are waiting, and to communicate with them effectively so that no one feels forgotten,” Russell George MS, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said.
The committee also recommended the Minister for Health and Social Services to outline “what contribution the new community pharmacy contract will make to tackling health inequalities, including what scope it provides for pharmacy teams to refer patients into other health services and how it will contribute to raising awareness of the services and support community pharmacies can provide.”
The report welcomed the community pharmacy pilot in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area, applauding the effort being made “to ensure that all contacts that our health services have with their communities provide opportunities to support people’s health and wellbeing.”
“We agree with Community Pharmacy Wales that access to shared patient records, with suitable data protection arrangements in place, could facilitate this and help to provide more seamless and patient-centred services,” the report added.
Other recommendations include:
- The services in place for people who are waiting for diagnostics and treatment, particularly pain management support.
- Access to psychological therapies and emotional support for those who may be experiencing anxiety or distress as a result of long waiting times.
- The contribution the third sector can make in providing peer support and information to patients waiting on an NHS waiting list.
- The effectiveness of messaging and engagement with the public about the demands on the service and the importance of seeking care promptly.
- The extent to which inequalities exist in the elective backlog, with deprived areas facing disproportionately large waiting lists per head of population compared to least deprived areas.
- Plans to fully restore planned NHS care in Wales.
In response to the report, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, emphasized: “Long term workforce challenges must be addressed by governments if we are to reduce waiting times and have a health and care service the public deserves – and that politicians continue to promise. We also need certainty around future financial settlements, revenue and capital investments to be able to plan and deliver on the capacity expansion needed to meet demand.”