Daily Mail claims on Welsh NHS

NHS Wales

Welsh Government response to Daily Mail claims

There are nearly 1,400 people in Wales who have been waiting more than a year to get NHS treatment, recent Lib-Dem figures show. In England there are 574 people waiting that long to be seen by a doctor, Jeremy Hunt said in August.

In March 2000, there were nearly 12,500 patients waiting more than 12 months for a first outpatient appointment and a further 12,500 people waiting 12 months or more for inpatient or day case treatment, giving a total of 25,000 patients waiting over 12 months. At the end of August 2014, this figure had fallen by 92%.

The Welsh Government wants to all patients to be treated in order of clinical priority and within its Referral Time to Treatment target times.

Daily Mail claim – The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) warned in July 2013 that University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff was ‘dangerous’ and that patients awaiting heart operations were dying ‘regularly’.

The Daily Mail is again quoting selectively from old reports and ignoring follow-up reports which show a different picture.

The Royal College of Surgeons did raise serious concerns about University Hospital of Wales when they visited Cardiff almost 18 months ago – the report was made public in July 2013.

However, what the Daily Mail has not reported is that a team from the Royal College of Surgeons made a follow-up visit in March 2014 to review progress made since its last visit. It praised progress which had been made in the previous 12 months, particularly in relation to surgery. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is investing £2.4m to tackle surgical waiting lists.

David Ward, vice president of the RCS, said at the time: “The RCS team was encouraged to note that there was both documentary and verbal evidence to demonstrate that the UHB had taken the concerns previously raised by the College seriously and that they had initiated a clear programme of work to address these issues. “It also appeared from the documentation reviewed and the meetings held that a number of improvements had already been made.”

Further information about this, including the background to the visit and full report is available in the Cardiff and Vale board papers.

Daily Mail claim – The RCS revealed that 152 patients had died in the past five years while waiting for heart surgery in Cardiff or Swansea.
The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) which commissions heart surgery for Welsh patients has published a series of reports about cardiac surgery in South Wales, including the number of deaths – 99 – over a five-year period up to 2013. These reports are available.

Sadly, there are occasions when patients with serious and complex heart conditions die before they can have surgery.

The Welsh Government and the Welsh NHS has made arrangements for some patients waiting for heart surgery in South Wales to have treatment in English hospitals as an interim measure to reduce long waiting times. Some 120 patients have taken up this offer.

Daily Mail claim – the most recent figures compiled by the House of Commons library paint a stark picture of how long it is taking even to get a diagnosis. Proportion of patients waiting over six weeks for diagnostic procedures at the end of July 2014

The Daily Mail is using figures which do not reflect the current waiting time target in Wales. Wales has a specific waiting time target for specified diagnostic tests, which is different to that in England – the maximum wait for access to specified diagnostic tests is EIGHT WEEKS and for specified therapy services it is 14 weeks.

Wales measures waiting times for the following diagnostic tests:

  • Cardiophysiology
  • Diagnostic endoscopy
  • Imaging
  • Neurophysiology
  • Physiological Measurement
  • Radiology (Consultant Referral)
  • Radiology (GP referral)

These are published monthly.

The figures for August 2014 show 24,107 were waiting more than eight weeks for diagnostic tests in Wales; seven out of 10 people receive their tests within the target time. The Welsh Government has been clear that long waits for diagnostic tests are not acceptable and it has invested £5m to speed up access to these tests.

Daily Mail claim -The Daily Mail says the Nuffield Trust warned recently that Wales’s lengthening waiting times should set ‘alarm bells ringing’

The Daily Mail is again quoting selectively from reports. The four-nation study by the Nuffield Trust concluded that compared to the last time a study of this nature was completed in 2010 the gap between England and the devolved administrations had narrowed. In the conclusions the authors say there are signs of convergence in performance between countries in a number of areas. The report also says Wales, like other countries, has seen improved population health and outcomes, reductions in avoidable deaths (deaths that could have been avoided through better healthcare), which halved over the study period, and increases in life expectancy (adding between three and five years to people’s lives). Wales also has a positive ranking in relation to life expectancy.

The Nuffield report also states that people are more satisfied with various aspects of the NHS in Wales than in England and Scotland, including: the way in which the NHS is run; the way in which local doctors and GPs are run; attending a hospital as an outpatient; and being in hospital as an inpatient, demonstrating how the service delivers for those most in need.

In June, the Nuffield Trust published a report called A Decade of Austerity in Wales? which concluded the health service in Wales is facing challenges in the future, including rising costs, increasing demand, an ageing population, and a growth in the number of people experiencing chronic conditions – the same challenges every healthcare system in the world faces in this age of austerity. However, it also concluded the NHS in Wales has responded to these through a range of measures including improvements in efficiency and productivity, reductions in length of stay in hospital and hospital admissions.

And it showed that despite the huge cuts in public expenditure forced on Wales by Westminster the NHS in Wales continues to be affordable thanks to actions taken by the Welsh Government. In the immediate future as a result of those actions and the huge effort of the NHS in Wales the £1.2bn gap the Nuffield report identifies can be reduced to £221m by 2015-16. The Welsh Government responded to the Nuffield challenge by announcing additional funding for the NHS in September of £425 over the coming two years.

The Nuffield Trust has also published a similar report into the NHS in England, called A Decade of Austerity? A coalition of trade unions – including the BMA and Royal College of Nursing – health charities and Royal Colleges warned on October 6 that the NHS in England is at “breaking point” and its “founding principles” are at stake. It called for a fully-costed spending plan if the £30bn “black hole” identified by the Nuffield report is to be plugged.