How long patients wait to for admission from elective surgery waiting lists is a measure of accessibility of elective surgery.
Waiting times measure the amount of time elapsed from a patient being ready for surgery to their admission for their procedure.
Access to elective surgery is affected by demand for elective surgery, the number of surgeons available, demographics of the patient, and how urgently the surgery is required.
This section presents waiting time information for 2019–20 and trends in waiting times between 2015–16 and 2019–20.
Additional information on waiting times for elective surgery by Indigenous status, socioeconomic status and remoteness area are presented from the admitted patient care data (NHMD elective surgery cluster), 2018–19.
Following a decision by National Cabinet, in the context of ensuring the health system maintained adequate capacity to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions were applied to selected elective surgeries from 26 March 2020.
Under these restrictions, only Category 1 and exceptional Category 2 procedures could be undertaken. These restrictions were eased (but not fully lifted) from 29 April 2020, allowing all Category 2 and some important Category 3 procedures to be performed.
These restrictions led to an overall decrease in admissions from elective surgery waiting lists of 9.2% between 2018–19 and 2019–20 and impacted waiting times for elective surgery.
Between 2015–16 and 2018–19 the waiting time of 50% of patients increased from 38 days to 41 days then decreased to 39 days in 2019–20.
The overall increase in the waiting time of 90% of patients increased 3 days from 2018–19 to 2019–20, to compared to an 11 day increase between 2017–18 and 2018–19.
The length of time waited by patients on public hospital elective surgery waiting lists before being admitted for surgery between 2015–16 and 2019–20. Waiting times for elective surgery can vary depending on:
In the data visualisation below, you can explore waiting times for elective surgery by peer group and clinical urgency category.
50th percentile (median) waiting time
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, the waiting time of 50% of patients:
90th percentile waiting time
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, the 90th percentile waiting time:
Patients who waited more than 365 days
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, the proportion of patients who waited more than 365 days to be admitted:
When a patient is placed on the public hospital elective surgery waiting list, a clinical assessment is made of the urgency within which they require elective surgery (the clinically recommended time). The proportion of patients seen within the recommended time is the percentage of patients removed from elective surgery waiting lists who were admitted for surgery within the clinically recommended time for each clinical urgency category.
The ‘overdue wait’ is the amount of time spent waiting while overdue—that is, after 30, 90 or 365 days for clinical urgency categories 1, 2 and 3, respectively. The average overdue wait time (in days) is calculated for patients who were still waiting for their elective surgery as at 30 June 2018, who were ready for care, and who had waited beyond the recommended time.
Due to the lack of comparability of clinical urgency categories between states and territories, these data are presented for each state and territory separately.
To explore elective surgery waiting times by hospital or LHN see My local area.
Appendixes and caveat information for this data is available to download in the Info and downloads section.
Definitions of the terms used in this section are available in the Glossary.
The surgical speciality describes the area of clinical expertise held by the doctor performing the elective surgery.
In the data visualisation below, you can explore elective surgery waiting times by surgical speciality for 2019–20 and between 2015–16 and 2019–20. Waiting times are presented at national, state and territory, LHN, and hospital level.
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20:
Waiting list statistics for intended surgical procedures can indicate performance in particular areas of elective surgery. Information on the types of elective surgery provided by public hospitals is shown by the intended surgical procedure, for selected procedures only.
In the data visualisations below, you can explore elective surgery waiting times by:
In 2019–20, for the top 25 intended procedures:
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, for the 15 indicator procedures:
Between 2018–19 and 2019–20:
Waiting times to admission for elective surgery can vary depending on a number of factors, including:
Demographic information on public hospital elective surgery waiting times is taken from the admitted patient care data (NHMD elective surgery cluster), 2018–19.
In the data visualisations below, you can explore 50th percentile waiting times for admissions for neoplasm related principal diagnoses (or other principal diagnoses) by specialty of surgeon, and over time for patients with a lung, bowel or breast neoplasm-related (cancer) principal diagnosis by hospital.
A separation rate ratio (SRR) greater than 1.0 indicates that the separation rate for an intended procedure for Indigenous Australians was higher than for other Australians admitted for the same intended procedure.
the rates for Indigenous Australians were not notably different to the rates for other Australians for Septoplasty (0.8), Inguinal herniotomy/herniorrhaphy (1.0), Skin lesion—excision of (0.9) and Total hip replacement (1.2).
Differences in the type of surgery performed and in the urgency category assigned may account for some of the variation in waiting times by funding source.
In 2018–19, the time in which 50% of patients were admitted for their awaited procedure was:
Patients with a cancer-related diagnosis often require more urgent admission from elective surgery waiting lists than patients awaiting surgery for other conditions.
In the data visualisations below, you can explore 50th percentile waiting times for admissions for neoplasm related principal diagnoses (or other principal diagnoses) by specialty of surgeon, and over time for patients with a lung, bowel or breast neoplasm-related (cancer) principal diagnosis by hospital (noting hospital and LHN data only available for 2011–12 and 2012–13).
Data on cancer surgery waiting times is taken from the admitted patient care data (NHMD elective surgery cluster), 2018–19.
The time within which 50% of patients with a principal diagnosis of:
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