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Waiting times 'not good enough'

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An increase in the number of people waiting for outpatient appointments in Wales is not good enough, BMA Cymru Wales has said.

A Wales Audit Office report says 375,000 patients are experiencing delays in receiving their follow-up appointments and that urgent action is needed.

The average number of patients on the follow-up waiting list has increased by 12 per cent over the last three years, with the number of patients waiting twice as long as they should, according to locally set targets, increasing by 55 per cent to just short of 200,000.

BMA Welsh council chair David Bailey said: 'A 12 per cent increase is not good enough. Waiting lists are still going up and we've got to try and manage them better.

'We need to get more staff in and we need to be doing things in a more forward-thinking way, in terms of the way we do the follow-ups and doing them in the most efficient way possible.

'We also need to ensure that management is managing it better and patients also need to take some responsibility to make sure they keep their appointments.

'It’s mainly due to a lack of capacity, but also that we don't always organise outpatient appointments as well as we should. A lot of people do not attend through no fault of their own because the databases aren't kept up to date.

'There have been a couple of big data losses in north Wales where they have had to go back to GPs and ask them to chase up and make sure nobody has been lost in the system.

'There are, however, more referrals going in because the population is getting older and an older population is going to be sicker.

'We have got to do something to try and improve the situation.'

The Wales Audit Office has called for ‘significant attention’ to be given to the issue and that modernisation on outpatient systems needs to ‘pick up pace’.

Auditor General Adrian Crompton said: ‘I find the worsening trend around delays to outpatient follow-up appointments extremely concerning and patients are being put at risk.

‘This needs to be addressed urgently across Wales. There are some encouraging signs. We’ve seen pockets of good practice and a recognition among senior leaders and clinicians that things need to change.

‘But this really needs to be shared, spread and upscaled more widely, and quickly, if it is to achieve the change that is urgently needed.’

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: ‘More than three million outpatient attendances take place every year in Wales.

‘With that volume in the system comes challenges around arranging follow-up appointments and we are working with health boards to make further improvements in this area.’

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