Waiting times having ‘devastating’ effects on patients

The Board of Community Health Councils (CHCs) in Wales has found that long waiting times for treatment is having an alarming impact on patients and their families, including the risk of long-term reliance on painkillers, mental health problems, unemployment and family breakdown.

Gathering feedback from patients on Wales, the report said current waiting times targets were ‘not meaningful’ and that the failure to meet targets is fast becoming ‘an accepted norm’.

Patient’s experiences included: feeling ‘powerless and distressed’ by waits of 100 weeks, poorly affecting mental health and creating a sense of loneliness; hindered mobility, with many patient’s unable to carry out day-to-day activities; relying on others for intimate personal care, which some described as a loss of dignity; a negative affect on family relationships; and younger people waiting for surgery expressed concern over the impact delayed transfers can have on their career.

The Welsh Government said progress was being made on waiting times, but figures show that there are currently 420,000 patients waiting for treatment in Wales. There are still more than 19,000 who have been waiting more than nine months and around eight per cent of patients have been waiting between six and nine months.

Mutale Merrill, chair of the Board of CHCs, said: “The number of stories in this report equate to only a small proportion of the missed targets reported each month by the NHS in Wales. For those who told their stories, this measure is unlikely to hold much meaning. Instead, most people measured their wait in terms of the impact on their day to day life, their finances, their relationships, their careers and their independence.”

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