Wales Heart Patient Deaths Increase

Investigation Reveals Increase In Welsh Heart Patients Dying While Waiting For Surgery

03.06.2014

The number of patients who died while on the waiting list for surgery has increased in the last 12 months, according to the BBC.

An investigative report from BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme found that 29 people died while waiting for heart operations at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales and Morriston Hospital in Swansea between April 2013 and March 2014.

This is an increase of 12 on the year before and could cause serious questions to be raised about south Wales' capacity to deal with the needs of people with immediate cardiac needs.

One of those that died was Newport Labour councillor Ron Jones, who had been waiting 15 months for bypass and valve replacement surgery when he died in the summer of 2013.

His partner Pam Allen told the BBC: "You could see him deteriorating, he was losing weight, he couldn't even water the garden and his angina spray he was using as much as 15, 20 times a day.

"All he kept saying was promise me if anything happens to me before this operation that you won't leave it there."

Further questions have also been raised about the Welsh NHS's ability to reliably carry out operations on time and to schedule.

Some 300,000 surgical procedures were carried out across Wales between April 2013 and March 2014, but in this time 37,000 were cancelled for non-clinical reasons, including a lack of beds or staff absences.

Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who has long campaigned for improved patient safety in Wales after the death of her husband, called the figures "shocking".

"Some people are going to die because by the time they get treatment it may be too late," she explained.

However, Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford claims his government is doing a "good job" of managing the NHS and said that improvements are constantly being made to reduce waiting lists across the nation.

Expert Opinion
These figures are very concerning – no patient should die because appropriate, timely surgery cannot be provided due to a lack of resource.

“Cardiac procedures are high-risk and must be carried out by specialist surgeons. If a hospital is not in a place to provide this care within a suitable timeframe to a patient in need, provisions must be made as quickly as possible within another facility.

“We hope these figures act as a wake-up call to all those in charge of the Welsh NHS to ensure urgent action is taken to increase beds, specialist staff and general resource so that heart patients have access to the best possible care as quickly as possible to help their recovery.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner