Elective surgery is planned surgery that can be booked in advance as a result of a specialist clinical assessment. Elective surgery is considered medically necessary, and may be required urgently, but is not conducted as a result of an emergency presentation.

Most elective surgeries performed in Australia are undertaken in private hospitals. However, the information presented in these pages provides an overview of elective surgery provided by public hospitals following the patient’s placement on a public hospital waiting list. The data on elective surgery waiting times is captured after the procedure is performed, so does not reflect the status of people currently waiting for surgery.

More data on public hospital elective surgery waiting lists can be found via the links at the bottom of the page.

Elective surgery

All data in these visualisations are available for download in the Data & downloads section of the MyHospitals website.

Elective surgery bookmark 1

623,000 patients were admitted from public hospital waiting lists in 2021–22. This was a 17% decrease since 2020–21.

Elective surgery bookmark 2

50% of patients waited at least 39 days for admission from elective surgery waiting lists in 2019–20.

Elective surgery bookmark 3

Indigenous Australians waited longer for admission from elective surgery waiting lists than Other Australians in 2019–20.

Overview of elective surgery activity

The number of admissions from elective surgery waiting lists, and the additions to the elective surgery waiting list is lower compared to last year and the last five years.

In 2021–22:

  • 623,000 patients were admitted for surgery from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists – a 17% decrease compared with 2020–21, and a 16.9% decrease compared with 2017–18. The decrease in admissions in 2021–22 was likely due to restrictions implemented as part of the response to COVID-19 outbreaks throughout Australia and disruptions to hospital services as a result of COVID which affected staff and patients.
  • 784,000 patients were added to elective surgery waiting lists – a 12% decrease compared with 2020–21, and a 10% decrease compared with 2017–18
  • 67,700 patients were removed from elective surgery waiting lists as they did not require or declined surgery – a 13% decrease when compared to 2020–21
  • 30,900 patients were removed from waiting lists because they were transferred to another hospital’s waiting list – a 12% decrease when compared to 2020–21
  • General surgery was the most common surgical specialty (21%), followed by Urological surgery (16%)
  • Cataract extraction was the most common selected intended (indicator) procedure (9.3%), followed by Cystoscopy (8.3%).

Elective surgery waiting times

For almost all intended procedures waiting times decreased compared to the 2020–21, however, were the same or higher than that seen in 2017–18. It should be noted that waiting times were notably higher than usual in 2020–21. The was due to the restrictions put in place in 2019–20 on elective surgery (as part of the early response to the COVID-19 pandemic), which led to an increase in waiting times for most intended procedures in the following year.

In 2021–22:

Admissions from waiting lists

Where do I find more information?

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


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2022) Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, ABS website, accessed 20 October 2022.