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A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows there have been improvements in the length of time public hospital patients waited for elective surgery.

The report, Elective surgery waiting times 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics, shows that between 2013-14 and 2014-15, the time within which 50% of patients were admitted (median waiting time) for elective procedures decreased from 36 days to 35 days.

'In addition, the proportion of patients who waited longer than a year to be admitted for their procedure decreased from 2.8% in 2010-11 to 1.8% in 2014-15,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

Despite these improvements, the report shows significant variation in waiting times across Australia, and for different population groups.

'In 2014-15, the median waiting time ranged from 27 days in Queensland to 55 days in Tasmania,' Ms Hargreaves said.

The proportion of patients who waited for longer than a year ranged from 0.5% in Queensland to 12.9% in Tasmania.

The report also found that the median waiting time for Indigenous Australians was higher than for other Australians (42 days compared with 35 days), and that the proportion of Indigenous Australians who waited more than a year was higher than for other Australians (2.3% compared with 1.8%).

The surgical specialties with the longest median waiting times in 2014-15 were Ear, nose and throat surgery, Ophthalmology, and Orthopaedic surgery (73, 70, and 64 days, respectively). Cardio-thoracic surgery had the shortest median waiting times (18 days).

Coronary artery bypass graft was the procedure with the shortest median waiting time
(14 days) and Septoplasty had the longest median waiting time (214 days).

Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the largest average annual increases in admissions were for Total hip replacement and Total knee replacement, which increased by about 4.5% and 4.0% per year, respectively. Admissions for Myringotomy (surgery on the ear drum for example for middle ear infections) decreased by about 5.0% per year.

In 2014-15, Australia's public hospitals admitted almost 698,000 patients from elective surgery waiting lists.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 15 October

Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1121; mob. 0407 012 520

Full publication: Elective surgery waiting times 2014-15: Australian hospital statistics