The Welsh Government has issued a statement on the latest NHS Wales performance data published today (Thursday, 24th March).
A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
The Omicron wave continues to have an impact on staffing levels, which placed a considerable strain on the NHS, with January 2022 seeing the highest level of staff sickness due to COVID since April 2020.
Despite the number of staff absences, thanks to the heroic efforts of our NHS staff, January saw the second smallest month-on-month increase of the total waiting list since the start of the pandemic.
Diagnostic waits over eight weeks, although a slight increase this month, are 14% lower than in January 2021 and a 22% improvement on the May 2020 position.
Unfortunately the combination of staffing, winter pressures and the ongoing Omicron wave meant some people continue to wait longer for treatment than we would like, with the over 36 week position increasing again this month. Consultants continue to see all patients in order of clinical priority, with the most urgent patients seen first.
We are also focusing on long waiters and the January figure for waits over a year has shown a 2% decrease compared to December and is the lowest since August 2021.
February 2022 saw an increase in the total number of calls made to the ambulance service compared to the previous month – and the same month last year. Despite this, performance against the eight minute ambulance response target increased by 2.5 percentage points on January 2022. Emergency departments have also seen increased activity - with over a third more attendances than February 2021 - which has created significant challenges for hospital teams and performance against the four hour target remains well below what it should be.
As ever cancer services are in high demand referrals to cancer services have increased from December 2021. Whilst the number of patients starting cancer treatments decreased in January 2022, the number of patients told they do not have cancer increased on previous months with over 11,500 patients informed they do not have cancer.
This is in part due to the opening of Rapid Diagnostic Centres (RDC) across Wales which have helped to diagnose patients with concerning symptoms more quickly. These clinics coupled with the £248m to support our NHS recovery plan, will help us to reduce waiting times for cancer services in the coming months.
In April we will publish a detailed plan on how we will tackle the waiting times for patients whose treatment has been delayed by the pandemic.