OVER £2million in funding is set to be ploughed into tackling surgical waiting lists, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board announced this week.

The £2.4million scheme is part of ambitious plans to cut dramatically the time people wait for planned surgery.

A team from the Royal College of Surgeons visited Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales and praised the progress in improving surgical services since concerns were raised 12 months ago.

The visitors said there was substantial work to do, but improvements had already been made.

The UHB has also developed a business case to increase the number of heart surgery procedures performed each year to 1,100 and in the longer term, expand to 1,300 procedures with additional medical and nursing staff and cardiac intensive care beds.

The health board said it had taken a number of immediate actions to see heart patients in most need including recruiting extra medical and nursing staff, introducing weekend working, ring-fencing surgical beds, investing £1.3 million of Welsh Government funding to replace critical cardiac theatre equipment and using services elsewhere to tackle long waiting lists for heart surgery.

The health board’s medical director, Dr Graham Shortland said: “There has been an incredible amount of work to improve surgical services over the last year and things have moved on considerably.”

He acknowledged there was still much to do and thanked the clinical teams who led to the development of the plans.

Members of the college also discussed progress so far and noted comments from surgeons that there had been a ‘sea change in attitude’.

In a letter to the health board following the visit, RCS vice president David Ward said documentary and verbal evidence demonstrated the UHB had taken the College’s concerns seriously and had initiated a clear programme of work to address these issues.

Chief executive Adam Cairns said there had been a marked improvement in a number of areas in the last year.

He said: “We have seen a 25 percent drop in the number of people waiting 36 weeks for surgery. The number of operations delayed due to a lack of beds in January was 547 – this year that figure was down to just 40.”

Mr Cairns said there had also been improvements in the management of emergency patients and improved length of stay for medical cases along with an improvement in the number of people seen at the emergency unit within four hours.

But shadow minister for health, Darren Millar AM said a year on from the warning too many patients were dying because they’re waiting too long for heart surgery and it was clear not enough progress was being made.

Mr Millar said: ““Some patients are waiting so long for treatment that their conditions worsen to such an extent that they need far more complex surgery, which involves greater risk, not to mention the distress caused to patients and their families.

“We need action now to address the crisis in cardiac care before more patients lose their lives waiting for surgery.”