Confidence in Health Secretary drains as he admits orthopaedic wait targets “plainly unachievable”

Targets to reduce orthopaedic waiting times at Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board are “plainly unachievable” according to the Health Secretary.

The shocking admission comes following a Written Assembly Question by Aberconwy AM, Janet Finch-Saunders.

Responding to a Written Assembly Question by Mrs Finch-Saunders, the Health Secretary – Vaughan Gething – said:

“This milestone is not achievable for orthopaedics within the timeline due to the transformational and service re-design work needed to develop a sustainable service. I am therefore not going to set an improvement target that is plainly unachievable.”

The admission comes despite the beleaguered Health Board having been in Special Measures since July 2015.

Welsh Conservatives have expressed anger and concern at the failure to make progress on reducing orthopaedic waiting times – even by September 2019.

Mrs Finch-Saunders said:

“Waiting times for orthopaedic treatments have been a huge concern over the past few years, where we have seen patients waiting over 130 weeks for hip or knee operations.

“With that in mind, and with the health board having been in special measures for nearly three years, it is deeply worrying that the Health Secretary doesn’t believe that sufficient progress can be made.

“It’s remarkable to see the confidence draining from a Minister who has seemingly thrown everything at the health board – and made no discernible impression.

“The people of North Wales deserve better and have been let down by a crisis of management of the Welsh NHS, and it is time for the Health Secretary to do the honourable thing and reflect on his position.”

 

Notes to Editors: 

WRITTEN ASSEMBLY QUESTION

FOR ANSWER BY

THE CABINET SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES

ON 12 JUNE 2018

Janet Finch-Saunders (Aberconwy): Will the Cabinet Secretary explain why the milestone requirement to provide evidence of continual sustainable improvement on referral to treatment times with no patient waiting longer than 36 weeks for treatment for Betsi Cadwaladr UHB between April 2019 and September 2019 excludes orthopaedics? WAQ76638 

Vaughan Gething: The specific milestone referred to in the framework relates to the period April 2019 to September 2019 and that no patient is waiting longer than 36 weeks for treatment with the exception of orthopaedics. This milestone is not achievable for orthopaedics within the timeline due to the transformational and service re-design work needed to develop a sustainable service. I am therefore not going to set an improvement target that is plainly unachievable.

However, I do expect to see sustained progress to reduce all RTT waiting times, including orthopaedic waits between now and September 2019 and beyond.  The health board is developing an orthopaedic plan, through discussion with clinicians and service users, that will provide the people of North Wales with sustainable orthopaedic services, and this has been shared with their Board.  The improvement framework includes specific milestones on developing and delivering the plan.

The number of patients waiting over 36 weeks for trauma and orthopaedics treatment has shot up by 56.7%  - from 2,125 to 3,331, including 279 waiting more than 77 weeks (compared to 0 in June 2015) and 29 waiting over 105 weeks [March 2018 – latest available figures:

https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Health-and-Social-Care/NHS-Hospital-Waiting-Times/Referral-to-Treatment/patientpathwayswaitingtostarttreatment-by-month-groupedweeks].