After a specialist clinical assessment, the treating doctor places the patient on an elective surgery waiting list.
This section presents information on additions, removals and admissions to public hospital elective surgery waiting lists in 2019–20 and changes between 2015–16 and 2019–20.
Information is also presented by:
This section presents information on waiting list activity, including:
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.
Last updated 18/11/2020 v8.0
From February 2020, a range of restrictions on travel, business, social interaction and border control, and also other interventions and initiatives were introduced at varying times by the federal and state/territory governments to respond to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
Some of these restrictions were aimed at reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus while others focused on ensuring the health system maintained adequate capacity to deal with the pandemic.
In terms of elective surgery, following a decision by National Cabinet, restrictions applied to selected elective surgeries from 26 March 2020 including:
In the following months, in consultation with the Australian Government via National Cabinet, states and territory applied a range of measures to control the rate of elective surgeries and avoid overwhelming the hospital system. Broadly, restrictions began to ease from 27 April, including the re-commencement of Category 2 and selected Category 3 procedures, however, this varied between jurisdictions.
The urgency category of an elective surgery procedure is classified based on the recommended timeframe in which the patient requires care.
This section presents new analyses on public hospital admissions from elective surgery waiting lists during this period to assess the impact of COVID-19 on elective surgery activity. Some data relating to surgeries provided through the private sector funded by the Medicare Benefits Scheme can be found here.
The data visualisation shows weekly admissions over the 2019–20 period by:
Data are also presented for 2018–19 for comparative purposes.
These visualisations show public hospital elective surgery waiting list activity between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
The three visualisations show weekly admissions over the period by: state and territory, urgency category, surgical specialty and indicator procedure.
Overall, the visualisations show that elective surgery admissions dropped by 9.2% since 2018-19.
Nationally, in previous years, the number of admissions was generally increasing.
The data visualisation shows the reduction in admissions from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists during 2019–20.
Compared to 2018–19, in 2019–20:
This suggests that there was a large number of elective surgeries that were delayed and/or where alternative treatment means were chosen during the period. It is unclear at this point what the health impacts of these delays or alternative treatments were.
During the peak of the COVID-19 restrictions in 2019–20, the number of public hospital elective surgeries performed ranged from 15,300 in the week commencing 16 March to 4,800 in the week beginning 13 April 2020.
Compared to 2018–19, in 2019-20:
While the number of elective surgeries performed declined from March to June 2020, the proportion of Category 1 and Category 2 procedures undertaken increased as a proportion of the total (reflecting the targeted nature of the restrictions toward lower urgency procedures).
After restrictions eased on elective surgeries, the number of procedures performed began to gradually increase. In the week commencing 22 June, 14,200 procedures were performed, including 4,300 Category 3 procedures.
Compared to 2018–19, the surgical specialties that showed the greatest decrease in admissions in 2019–20 were Otolaryngology, head and neck surgery (15.3%), Ophthalmology surgery, eye and optic nerve surgery (14.6%), and Orthopaedic surgery (13.9%).
Coronary artery bypass graft was the only intended procedure for which admissions from elective surgery waiting lists increased in 2019–20.
Since 2018–19, the intended procedures with the greatest decrease in admissions were:
It should be noted that, between 2017–18 to 2018–19, these intended procedures also decreased in the number of admissions from elective surgery waiting lists, but at a slower rate:
To explore the influence of the COVID-19 on other health data, further releases are available on the AIHW website under COVID-19 Resources and The impact of COVID-19 on Australia's health system.
Information on the total confirmed cases and active cases can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
To explore admissions from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists 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.
Elective surgery activity is measured by the number of additions to and removals from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists, and the number of patients admitted for their awaited procedure.
This data visualisation below presents information on additions, removals and admissions in 2019–20 and changes between 2015–16 and 2019–20.
Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the total number of removals from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists increased, on average, by 2.3% each year.
Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, admissions increased, on average, by 2.1% per year, however, in 2019–20, admissions from waiting lists was 9.2% lower than 2018–19, due to cancellation of non-urgent elective surgery.
To explore elective surgery waiting times by hospital or LHN see My local area.
The surgical speciality describes the area of clinical expertise held by the doctor performing the elective surgery. This section presents information on the type of elective surgery provided, by surgical speciality in 2019–20 and changes between 2015–16 and 2019–20
Information on 11 categories of surgical speciality is presented. The ‘other’ category contains data for surgeons whose speciality was not one of the 11 specified categories. From 1 July 2016, surgical speciality was revised to include Paediatric surgery.
The data visualisation below presents elective surgery waiting list additions, removals and admissions by state and territory between 2015–16 and 2019–20.
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20:
The intended surgical procedure describes the type of elective surgery provided by public hospitals.
In the data visualisations below, you can explore admissions from elective surgery waiting lists by:
Between 2018–19 and 2019–20:
There were relatively large decreases in admissions for Varicose veins treatment (29.5%) and Myringotomy (25.5%).
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