The conclusions of a report into outpatient waits in NHS Wales have been called “the inevitable result of mismanagement by a Welsh Labour Government that is failing on several NHS performance fronts”, by the Shadow Health Secretary.
The report revealed that 375,000 patients are currently experiencing delays to their follow-up appointments while the number waiting “twice as long they should” has increased by 55% to around 200,000 – highlighting that “actions to improve outpatient services were mostly delivering short-term solutions”.
There were also more serious criticisms focussing on structural problems stating that the arrangements for health boards reviewing their outpatient follow-up performance were “generally underdeveloped” and that the majority of health boards were “not meeting Welsh Government reporting requirements”.
This is despite the report noting that over two-thirds of all outpatient appointments are follow-up appointments.
To make clear the importance of follow-ups, the report mentions the 2014 paper from the Royal National Institute for the Blind Cymru (RNIB) which brought attention to the risks of ophthalmology patients losing their sight because of a delayed follow-up.
Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Secretary Angela Burns AM had an example in her own consistency, where delayed follow-ups had tragic consequences:
“I've seen first-hand an example of a man who was given the all clear after cancer treatment which then required a follow-up appointment for a check-up at 6 and 12 months.
The 12 month check-up was delayed by another 6 months, whereupon the man’s cancer had returned, leaving the chemotherapy ineffective at such a late stage. This is just one tragic example of the consequences of these delays.”
Commenting on the report, Mrs Burns said:
"I am extremely concerned by this report and its findings. If 375,000 patients are currently experiencing delays to their follow-up appointments; that’s 375,000 patents that are being put at unnecessary risk.
"If there are issues with delays, then problems aren't being picked up and the patient’s situation reverts to poor. It's counter-productive and adds further stress to an already over-extended NHS in Wales.
"I am very concerned by the fact that there has been a 55% increase in the number of patients waiting twice as long as they should since 2015 - make no mistake that this is a terrifying statistic.
"The Welsh Government has to wake up and recognise the desperate need for change".