MORE than half a million people are waiting for NHS treatment in Wales, according to new figures.

The record high numbers show that, of the 530,371 people on the waiting list, nearly half – 231,722 (44 per cent) – have been waiting more than 36 weeks for their treatment to start.

In March last year, just 28,294 people had been waiting more than 36 weeks – the Welsh Government target for treatment to start.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the initial cancellation of non-urgent treatments has seen the waiting list grow by 73,562 since then.


The Welsh Government said NHS services remain under “intense and sustained pressure” from a combination of normal winter pressures and the coronavirus pandemic.

“The number of people needing treatment for coronavirus is having a major impact on delivering NHS services, affecting waiting times,” a spokeswoman said.

“The NHS is not immune to the effects of coronavirus itself – there are high levels of staff absences as people fall ill with the virus or have to self-isolate.

“We have made an extra £30 million available this year to support urgent and emergency care services and increase resilience over the remainder of this financial year.

“We continue to ask everyone to follow the rules to slow the spread of this awful virus – please stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies branded the figures “appalling”.

“Regrettably, waiting list targets were being missed before the pandemic started, with the Welsh Labour-led Government consistently letting down patients,” he said.

“Coronavirus has now led to us having the worst waiting times on record, but the pandemic has only shone a spotlight on how bad things were before, and these devastating figures demonstrate that we now urgently need a waiting time recovery plan from Labour ministers.”

Richard Johnson, from the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “These figures are just devastating. A staggering number of patients – almost a quarter of a million – are now waiting more than 36 weeks to start treatment in Wales.

“Furthermore, there are more than half a million people on the waiting list overall. A huge waiting list has built up under the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are calling on the Welsh Government to urgently implement a clear strategy to eliminate the backlog, supported by sustained investment.”

The figures also show that the number of referrals from GPs for cancer diagnosis remains low in Wales.

In November 2020, 11,717 patients entered the single cancer pathway – 1,200 fewer than in the same month in the previous year.

Richard Pugh, of charity Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It’s worth noting that these latest figures pre-date the national lockdown we have been in since before Christmas – a period in which we have seen our health services struggle to cope with the highest levels of coronavirus infection Wales has seen since the crisis began.

“We know some treatments, both urgent and non-urgent, have been postponed or cancelled in the worst-affected areas.

“We also know many people are still worried about visiting their GP. It’s essential that the public knows their GP is still open and will want to hear from them if they have any new or persistent changes to their health.”