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GPs warn patients are ‘re-mortgaging homes’ due to surgery waiting times

Patients in Wales are waiting so long for operations that some are taking out loans or re-mortgaging their homes to pay for private orthopaedic treatment, GP leaders have warned.

Bro Taf LMC, which made the warning in a newsletter to members, said Wales has an ‘appalling’ waiting time situation compared to England, especially for orthopaedic surgery.

Wales has a referral-to-treatment standard that 95% of patients should be treated with 26 weeks, and no-one should wait more than 36.

But Government statistics show that 28,654 Welsh patients had been waiting more than 36 weeks to start treatment as at 31 August, a record high since the first figures were published in September 2011. 

The Bro Taf LMC said it has started working with the Community Health Council (CHC) patient watchdog in Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan as well as Cwm Taf to campaign for improvements to waiting times.  

The LMC newsletter said: ‘Patients in Wales are getting an appalling deal compared to England and we need to see what action we can take to improve services for patients. The average waiting time for an orthopaedic appointment is eight weeks in England and more like eight months in Wales.

’GPs know of patients who have re-mortgaged their homes and taken out personal loans to get private treatment because of the long NHS waiting times. In some specialities the urgent waiting list is longer than the routine waiting list.’

The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan CHC has designed a poster asking patients to come forward with their experiences of long waits, which GPs are now posting in surgeries.

The LMC said it will take the campaign to health minister Mark Drakeford and lobby Welsh Assembly members ahead of elections next year

GPC Wales deputy chair Dr David Bailey said: ’Waiting lists in Wales are certainly significantly worse for orthopaedic surgery – a situation no GP is happy with.

’I have not heard of remortgages but certainly patients in a lot of pain do put themselves in debt if they aren’t prepared to endure the waiting times and this is likely to directly relate to the length of wait.’

Meirion George, the head of operations and delivery for Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan University Health Board’s surgical clinical board, said: ’The health board has focussed on reducing long waits for patients for orthopaedic treatments and we have more than halved the number of people waiting longer than 36 weeks since the start of the year.

’We know there is more to do and there are plans to deliver further reductions over the next six months.’