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Patients waited over five years for operations after health board errors, says ombudsman

Patients in one Welsh health board waited over five years for operations after they were incorrectly taken off a waiting list, an ombudsman has found.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales launched three investigations after separate complaints about how orthopaedic waiting lists were managed at Swansea Bay University Health Board.

All three patients had waited a long time for surgery, according to the ombudsman.

The watchdog found that there is a waiting time of more than four years for orthopaedic surgery at the health board.

One of the patients, named only as Mrs B in the report, was referred to hospital in 2018 for right hip pain and later for her left hip too.

But after her clinically worse left hip was treated, she was removed from the waiting list for her right hip.

A second patient, Mr D, missed surgical appointments because he was in hospital receiving treatment for another illness.

He was removed from the waiting list, which the ombudsman said appeared to be outside of the process.

Mr D received treatment earlier this month, more than five years since he was initially added to the waiting list.

Mr C, a third patient, waited three years and seven months for surgery while in "severe pain".

The ombudsman found he, too, was "removed from the list in error".

'Lengthy waiting times'

Michelle Morris, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said she was "concerned that there appears to have been no thought" for the impact on patients' well-being.

"Patients who are already facing lengthy waiting times should feel able to rely on the health board to manage the waiting list well and in accordance with the waiting list guidelines," she added.

The three recommendations made to the health board were to review its decisions in respect of the complainants, audit the whole waiting list to establish whether there were other errors, and apologise to the patients affected.

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Swansea Bay University Health Board has apologised to the three patients in a statement and confirmed it had accepted the ombudsman's recommendations in full.

"Along with scrutinising our orthopaedic waiting lists, additional staff training is in place to ensure referral to treatment time rules are followed," a spokesperson said.

"Our orthopaedic services are under huge pressure, and we are doing all we can to tackle waiting lists."