Achievements during 2011/12 include:
- all seven Welsh Local Health Boards now delivering fast access to stroke treatment;
- a 32 per cent reduction in cases of C.difficile infections – more than 600 fewer cases and more than 30 lives saved;
- the best sustained performance by the ambulance service since current records began;
- a reduction in patient stays in hospital – the length of time in hospital for a hip replacement fell from 7.2 days to 6.2 days, and knee replacement fell from 6.8 days to 6 days.
- reductions in the number of hospital admissions for major chronic conditions, including a 25 per cent fall in the number of readmissions for respiratory conditions;
- high patient satisfaction ratings in terms of staff providing dignity in care;
- delivering financial balance and realising £290m of efficiency savings; and
- reductions in orthopaedic waiting times
David Sissling said:
“I am pleased to report a pattern of general improvement which shows the NHS has risen to the challenge set by the Minister for Health and Social Services, Lesley Griffiths, to focus above all on delivery.
“In particular, the improvements in stroke care are considerable, with every health board delivering fast access to thrombolysis – clot-busting drugs which improve survival rates – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Royal College of Physicians has noted NHS Wales as the fastest improving system in the history of their audit on stroke services in the UK.
“Quality of care is improving, for example with the reductions in cases of C.difficile, where prevalence rates are lower than many European countries.
“NHS staff have also made progress in reducing orthopaedic waits, cutting over 5,500 from the long waiting list during the year.”
Mr Sissling said more work needed to be done to eliminate all instances of long waiting, and the NHS should look at treatments which offered limited benefit.
“Some conditions, such as back pain or knee injuries, may be best treated by physiotherapy rather than surgery.
“And orthopaedic patients who are obese or overweight may not get the best outcomes for, say, a hip replacement as there is an increased risk of them being readmitted to hospital – it may be best for a weight loss programme to be prescribed instead.”
Mr Sissling also said that further major improvements were needed if the NHS was to meet the challenges set out in its five-year plan, Together for Health, and fulfil the Bevan Commission’s ambition of services ‘best suited to Wales but comparable with the best anywhere’.
“The fact that the NHS has reduced hospital admissions for major chronic conditions through better provision of treatment closer to people’s homes, reducing the need for in-patient hospital care, is among the factors driving change.
“My report shows that we need to modernise our services in order to better reflect the changing picture of health needs in Wales.
“Over the next few months, health boards will be consulting on plans to improve their services and I encourage communities across Wales to get involved and express their views.”