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Report Shines a Light on Elective Surgery ‘Hidden’ Waiting List

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The elective surgery ‘hidden’ waiting list adds months and sometimes years to the time patients wait for elective surgery, but inconsistent and unreliable data means that the scale of the problem at a national level is unknown, according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA). The ‘hidden’ waiting list is the time it takes to see a specialist in a public hospital outpatient clinic. These consultations often result in patients being added to the elective surgery waiting list.

While elective surgery waiting times are reported nationally each year by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the is no national reporting for outpatient appointment waiting times. While some jurisdictions individually report this data, the quantity and quality of publicly available data varies significantly between states and territories, with some states not reporting on it at all. This is why it is referred to as the ‘hidden’ waiting list.

A new AMA report – Shining a light on the elective surgery ‘hidden’ waiting list – found many patients waiting months and even years for an outpatient appointment, to only be put on another waiting list to receive surgery. Patients are therefore not fully informed of the actual waiting time for elective surgery, and the system cannot be resourced properly as the scale of the problem is unknown.

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