The Welsh Government has allocated £140m to help the NHS recover from the pandemic after the latest data revealed the backlog for planned care has surpassed 600,000 people.
The funding – announced today – comes as part of a £551m funding package for NHS and social care services, the majority of which (£411m) will be used to support NHS and social care services, helping to cover Covid testing, vaccination and PPE costs.
However, £100m will be granted to enact health boards’ recovery plans – including speeding up treatment for those waiting the longest – while £40m will be used to increase hospital capacity and improve equipment.
The funding comes just weeks after NHS Confederation analysis showed the total number of patient pathways waiting to start treatment reached just over 608,000 by the end of May 2021.
This is the highest since comparable data was first collected in 2011, with the number increasing steadily every month since May 2020, it said.
It added that the rise in demand is having a ‘significant impact’ on primary care, consequently ‘impacting all parts of the urgent care system’.
Elsewhere, staff across the NHS are reporting higher levels of sickness, with the three highest causes relating to psychological issues, Covid-19 or long Covid, and stress, the Confederation said.
Meanwhile, issues of capacity and workforce in adult social care and child services are having ‘serious implications’ on the NHS’ ability to discharge large numbers of medically fit patients from hospital.
‘There is no evidence to suggest the pressures will reduce over the coming months,’ the NHS Confederation said.
‘Welsh Government modelling for Coronavirus admissions, supported by local modelling approaches, suggest this will increase significantly as we enter the winter period.’
It added that plans are being developed but that it currently anticipates the workforce being the ‘fundamental constraint to successfully meeting this demand’.
On the new funding, health minister Eluned Morgan said: ‘The knock-on effect from dealing with the pandemic has also been huge.
‘Waiting lists have increased by more than 33% and are now at record levels. Getting back to where we were before the pandemic is going to take a lot of time and investment in new ways of working. So, we are also providing an extra £140m to the NHS for this work.’
NHS services across the UK have been reporting that waiting lists have been growing beyond what is manageable. In England, 304,803 patients were waiting more than 52 weeks to start treatment, as the overall backlog topped 5.5 million.
Earlier this month, the UK’s healthcare system slipped from its first place ranking to fourth place due to delays in accessing care, according to a thinktank’s analysis of health services globally.