People in some parts of Wales are waiting far longer for operations on the Welsh NHS than others. A deep dive into the data by WalesOnline has revealed where people in Cymru can expect to spend the most time waiting for an NHS procedure.

People in north Wales are much more likely to be waiting over two years for an operation whereas waits of over one year are most likely to be felt by people in the Valleys. Plaid Cymru called the figures a "national scandal".

Most concerning is that the decline in people waiting over two years for a procedure has slowed in many parts of Wales and in some areas have even increased since the start of 2023. During the pandemic people waiting over two years for an operation skyrocketed and at one point was over 70,000. Wales wide the figure has come down fairly consistently over the last year but at a very slow rate.

WalesOnline went through the data to look at how much people in different parts of Wales were waiting for their procedure. The following figures are based on the health board area in which they live, not the health board they are waiting to have their procedure with.*

This graph shows the two year waits broken down by health board:

As you can see all health boards experienced huge spikes during the pandemic with Swansea Bay and Cwm Taf seeing the largest. Cardiff and Vale and Aneurin Bevan saw smaller peaks in the number of two year waits but have since stagnated. All health boards except Betsi Cadwaladr have plateaued at roughly the same level. The Welsh Government say that the reason for this is that a larger proportion of pathways are now at the "treatment stage" which takes longer than the diagnostic stage.

The north Wales health board, which is Wales largest, is not far off double the level of other health boards in Wales. It has been repeatedly put into special measures by the Welsh Government. WalesOnline did a special investigation into failings at the health board that you can read here.

Dr Nick Lyons, executive medical director at Betsi Cadwaladr , said: “We apologise for the time patients have waited and we are doing everything we can to provide treatment as quickly as possible in order of clinical priority. A number of our services have been particularly challenged during recent years but over the last year considerable effort has gone into improvements in these areas.

“We have seen significant improvements to our Orthopaedic services, with new ways of working at Abergele Hospital and an approved business case for a new surgical hub at Llandudno General Hospital. This means more people will be seen sooner at a dedicated site running for 50 weeks of the year. This will play an important part in reducing our waiting lists.

“The number of patients waiting more than eight weeks for a diagnostic test has continued to fall significantly each month with more than 5,900 people waiting in November 2023 compared to nearly 10,000 in November 2022. We know there is much more to do to improve our waiting times for treatments or appointments, in particular within some specialities. If any of our patients have any concerns we would encourage them to contact our PALS team on 03000 851234 or email”

This graph shows one year waits broken down by health board:

Concerningly in many parts of Wales the amount of people waiting over a year for a procedure is increasing rapidly. Cardiff and Vale in particular has seen substantial growth.

What is also noteworthy is that Betsi Cadwaldr had significantly higher rates than other parts of Wales even before the pandemic started in early 2020.

Plaid Cymru’s health and care spokesperson, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, said: "The waiting times for treatment in Wales is a national scandal. The lack of movement in the right direction should lie directly at the door of the Labour Welsh Government where we have seen a lack of action to get to grips with an emerging staffing crisis since before the pandemic. This could be resolved if only they would invested in growing the front-line staff of our hospitals and services, and improved working conditions.

"The Government is putting pressure on the health service to tackle the longest waiting times. But this is the wrong approach. They should channel their resources to tackling the most urgent cases. By failing to do this those in greatest need develop other conditions which adds further pressures on our health service.

"To the many people in all parts of Wales who are currently waiting, many in pain, for routine treatments, looking at these figures will be incredibly concerning. Plaid Cymru believes that all options must be considered to get these waiting lists down as soon as possible."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Latest data shows, the number of pathways waiting over two years are a third of the size of the peak in March 2022, are the lowest since August 2021 and have fallen for 22 consecutive months. The overall average wait for treatment is now 21.4 weeks.

"The pace of progress has slowed because more of the pathways are now at the treatment stage compared to two years ago (51% January 2024 compared to 44% in April 2022) when we published our recovery plan. It takes more resources to close treatment pathways than pathways that close after outpatients or diagnostics.

"Also the two-year waits are now across fewer specialities, down from 34 in April 2022 to 23 in January 2024. These include the specialties, like orthopaedics, urology, and ophthalmology, that have historically had longer waits. We are helping health boards transform how they deliver treatment for these specialities to reduce waiting times.”

*The most recent data runs up to January 2024. Powys has not been included as the health board doesn't perform operations and there are unexplained anomalies in the data.