Backlogs eliminated, but waiting lists for specialist care increased considerably since 2018

by Lorraine Williamson
waiting lists

In the first half of 2021, a large part of the waiting lists for operations and consultations have been eliminated in Spain. In June, 24,000 fewer people were on the waiting list. And the average waiting time was 27 days less compared to six months earlier.

In June 2020, the average waiting time for an operation was 171 days, last June that had fallen to an average of 121 days. That is exactly as long as people had to wait for an operation in December 2019, thus eliminating the backlog that had accumulated during the pandemic. 

More people making an appointment 

This is according to recently published data from the Ministry of Health. The average waiting lists for a medical specialist appointment also fell from an average of 115 days in 2020 to 75 days at the end of June. Meanwhile, in the same period the number of people making an appointment increased from 5.3% to 6.2% (of the population). This increase is a result of the decline in appointments during the first half of 2020. And was because people with complaints other than Covid-19 avoided hospitals en masse. However, the number of people who made an outpatient appointment last June was the same as in December 2019. 

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Waiting time has increased significantly in three years 

The waiting list figures are now back to pre-pandemic levels. However, compared to three years ago, the average waiting time for an operation has increased significantly. In June 2018 this was still 93 days, which is 30% lower than in June of this year. The waiting time for a medical specialist consultation was 57 days three years ago. This is 31.5% less than in June this year. 

Basques receive faster help

Within Spain, the waiting list for an operation or a consultation with a specialist is not equally long. Residents of Castile-La Mancha have the longest wait for surgery, with an average of 189 days. This is followed by Aragon (166 days) and Catalonia (152). The residents of the Basque Country come fastest with an average waiting time of 62 days, followed by Galicia (70) and Navarra and Rioja (both 71 days). 

Looking at the different medical disciplines, Spain has to wait the longest for an operation or consultation at the orthopedics or ophthalmology department. Nearly 19% of people on the waiting list have to wait longer than six months. Despite the fact that the backlog caused by the pandemic has been eliminated, the situation is still dire for a small group of patients because they sometimes have to wait years for an intervention. 

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