Tackling the Planned Care Backlog in Wales: Auditor General calls for detail on recovery plans and the NHS workforce

The Auditor General for Wales has today published a report setting out the findings from their high-level review of how NHS Wales is tackling the backlog of patients waiting for planned care.
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Although the report takes a top-level view of NHS services and doesn’t look specifically at the impact on children and young people, it illustrates the challenge for health services in which paediatric services are embedded and identifies system-wide challenges that will have to be met if the Welsh Government is to deliver the commitment to prioritise children made in its recent plan for transforming planned care and reducing waiting lists. 

Dr David Tuthill, RCPCH Officer for Wales said:

This report makes clear once again that health services are under huge pressure. It highlights growing waiting lists and big capacity issues within the NHS. 

We welcomed the Welsh Government’s recent plan for transforming planned care and reducing waiting lists and in particular we were pleased to see that plan identify children and young people as a priority; and commit to tackling health inequalities as one of the plan’s central planks. However, we do need to see further detail about how those commitments will be realised, along with a proper strategy to set out how the necessary workforce will be delivered. 

The Auditor General’s overall assessment reinforces these points. It calls for the Welsh Government plan to be backed up with a proper delivery framework with more detail and milestones to measure progress. The report also says that to deliver its commitments, the Welsh Government will need to have a workforce plan based on a robust assessment of current capacity gaps and realistic proposals for addressing them.

It’s also worrying that the Auditor General reports that the NHS in Wales has found it difficult to spend some of the extra funding made available recently and estimate that that of an extra £200m available by the Welsh Government to support recovery in 2021/22, £12.77m will be returned. RCPCH members have expressed concern as to whether new funding will be allocated to paediatric services so it’s vital that delivery plans and funding plans consider how to ensure that funding reaches those priority areas identified by the Welsh Government, including child health and paediatric services - and tackling health inequalities.