The surgical waiting list decreased in the Region of Murcia last year by 5 days, with reductions in waiting times in 65 percent of specialties, according to updated data from the Murcian Health Service as of December 2021. This positive evolution occurs despite the fact that the period analysed includes the coronavirus waves of late 2020 and 2021.
The data are equally positive in outpatient consultations, with an average waiting time of 11 days less than in December 2020. In terms of diagnostic techniques, there are no notable changes and the average waiting time remains below the required 30 days, namely 25 days.
The average waiting time on the surgical waiting list was 93 days and in all surgical specialities the waiting time is less than 150 days, the maximum required by the decree that regulates the maximum times for access to the services of the public health system of the Region of Murcia. Thus, of the 14 surgical specialities, only three have waiting times of over 100 days and 80 percent have waiting times of less than 100 days.
In terms of the main procedures, the average waiting time has been reduced by six days. There are decreases in waiting times for common procedures such as cataracts, cholelithiasis, varicose veins and hip or knee replacements.
In outpatient consultations the average waiting time was 91 days. More than 60% of the specialities have a waiting time of less than 50 days and 7 have 30 days or less, including medical oncology, radiotherapy oncology and paediatrics, thus covering the need for rapid response in specialities that require action with the shortest possible delay.
Of the 32 specialities studied, 20 have waiting times of less than 50 days (the maximum established in the decree) and 7 have waiting times of less than 30 days. On the other hand, there are 10 specialities with waiting times of more than 50 days, as they are highly conditioned by the delays in those health areas where there are positions that are difficult to fill.
In terms of waiting lists for diagnostic techniques, the regional average waiting time is 26 days, below the 30 days required by regulations. More than 60% of diagnostic techniques have a delay of less than 30 days. It is worth highlighting the short delays in techniques such as gynaecological ultrasound, haemodynamics, functional respiratory tests, echocardiography, scintigraphy and CAT scans, all of which take 15 days or less.
STRONG INCREASE IN DEMAND IN 2020
In 2021, there was a 20 percent increase in demand compared to 2020. In 2020, 69,491 patients were admitted for surgery, compared to 83,883 in 2021. In terms of activity, 60,019 patients were taken off the waiting list for surgery in 2020, while in 2021 a total of 70,386 patients underwent surgery. This represents a 17 percent increase in activity in 2021 compared to 2020.
A similar situation occurred in outpatient consultations, with 461,811 requests in 2020 compared to 678,353 in 2021, i.e. an increase of 32 per cent. At the same time, there was a 23 per cent increase in activity in 2021, with 479,729 outpatient consultations compared to 387,556 in 2020.
In short, times are improving in general terms despite the heavy pressure on the care system in 2021. In this sense, the regional government is grateful for the “enormous and constant effort of the professionals, which has been fundamental in achieving these figures”.
MEASURES TO IMPROVE DELAYS
The Regional Ministry of Health is working on measures to improve delays, with an investment of 8.4 million euros to reduce waiting lists, which is 17.8 percent more than the previous year, as well as a greater number of staff to increase healthcare and achieve the same objective.
Automatic outpatient appointments will be introduced in all areas, so that patients leave the consultation room with their appointment, whether from primary care or from another part of the hospital, and measures will be implemented, amounting to 1.3 million, to cover positions that are difficult to fill in certain health areas, a fundamental aspect in reducing delays.