Record amount of people in Spain waiting for surgery

by Lorraine Williamson
waiting for surgery

MADRID – December data on waiting lists for surgery in Spanish health care shows a deterioration across all indicators. The average time for operations and appointments with the specialist is also growing. 

At the moment, more patients than ever are waiting for surgery in Spain: 793,521. That is a new historic record in the public health system. And compared to December 2021, it means an increase of 87,781 people. The data published by the Ministry of Health also shows an increase in the average time people have to wait for a procedure (122 days) and the percentage of patients who waited more than six months (22%). 

Deterioration of all major indicators 

All major indicators have deteriorated, which is usually the case in December (compared to June, when they are also measured). But not only are many patients waiting (partly due to the ageing population), but the time to see a specialist is also increasing (95 days). In addition, the percentage of people who have to wait more than 60 days has increased to 55.9%. 

Furthermore, the reality behind these numbers is alarming. For example, the fine print states that more than 43% of patients requiring neurosurgery have to wait longer than six months; more than 30% in the case of traumatology. 

The number of operations performed is still below that of 2019 

“It is striking that the number of operations performed is still below that of 2019, 22,000 less, which does not raise very good expectations regarding the evolution of waiting times,” said Marciano Sánchez-Bayle, president of the Federation of Defense Associations of Health. (FADSP) in El País. 

More than 60 days waiting for the first appointment with a specialist 

In short, surgical waiting lists are a counter that is activated from the moment the person has to be at the door of the operating room. But before then, there is a trajectory that goes through saturated primary care and appointments with specialists that can take months. More than 60% of ophthalmology, traumatology and dermatology patients had to wait more than 60 days to be seen by a specialist. And this only refers to the first appointment. No details are known about the follow-up appointment. 

Longest waiting times in traumatology 

Traumatology is the speciality for which most people waiting for surgery (190,990), followed by ophthalmology (172,093, of which 126,843 are waiting for cataract surgery) and general and digestive surgery (145,149). Urology follows at a great distance with 66,304 people waiting for a procedure. 

By region, Castilla-La Mancha and the Canary Islands have the worst data for surgical waiting times with an average time of 157 days, closely followed by Extremadura (156) and Cantabria (154). At the other extreme is Madrid (63 days), followed by the Basque Country (73) and Galicia (75). 

Regarding external consultations, the waiting times in the regions are as follows: Andalucia (123 days waiting on average) and Canarias (121). The best data is by far recorded in the Basque Country (48 days), followed at some distance by La Rioja and Galicia (66 in both cases). 

The system does not meet the needs 

According to Sánchez-Baile, “the serious problems” of delay that existed in the national health system have not been resolved and “it is clear that the system is not responding to existing needs”. “This highlights that the various government administrations, both at the central and regional level, are not addressing the problems of the system quickly or with sufficient resources and that quality care for the population is not guaranteed within a reasonable timeframe,” he added. 

Related post: Collapse of primary care and A&E in Spain is imminent 


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