Elective surgery

Elective surgery is planned surgery that can be booked in advance as a result of a specialist clinical assessment and the patient being placed on a waiting list. 

Explore more details on elective surgery activity and waiting times via the links at the bottom of the page.

Media release

Visualisation not available for printing
Visualisation not available for printing
Visualisation not available for printing

More people are waiting for elective surgery

In 2018–19:

  • 893,000 patients were added and 758,000 patients admitted for surgery from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists
  • although the rate of patients added to waiting lists was 2.2% higher than the previous year, this was less than the 2.5% annual average growth over the past 5 years
  • General surgery was the most common surgical specialty (21%), followed by Urological surgery (14%).

People are waiting longer

In 2018–19:

  • 50% of patients were admitted for elective surgery within 41 days (up from 40 days the previous year and 35 days in 2014–15)
  • Cataract surgery was the most common procedure for admissions
  • the waiting time for 50% of Indigenous Australians (50 days) was higher than for Other Australians (40 days)
  • of the 25 most common surgeries, Breast lump—excision and/or biopsy had the shortest median waiting time (16 days), and Septoplasty (to fix a deviated nasal septum) had the longest (241 days)
  • the proportion of patients who waited longer than 365 days to be admitted was 2.1% in 2018–19, up from 1.8% in the previous year.

Removals from waiting lists

  • 886,400 patients were removed from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists in 2018–19.
  • Most patients (86%) removed from waiting lists were admitted for their awaited procedure.
  • 14% were removed from waiting lists for other reasons (For example, the surgery was no longer required, they were treated elsewhere, they were transferred to another hospital’s waiting list, they were unable to be contacted, or they passed away).
  • Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the total number of removals from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists increased by an average of 2.3% each year.

Admissions from waiting list

  • Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, admissions increased, on average, 2.1% per year.
  • Principal referral and women’s and children’s hospitals and Public acute group A hospitals accounted for three‑quarters of these admissions (41% and 34%, respectively).
  • In 2018–19, 3.8% of admissions from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists (28,600) were reported for people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin who represent about 3.0% of the Australian population. 

Where do I find more information?

The latest data on elective surgery waiting times is available for download below.