This report provides an overview of elective surgery provided by public hospitals in Australia. It updates previous reports to include data for the 2017–18 reporting period.

Slow growth in elective surgery waiting lists

In 2017–18, about 874,000 patients were added to public hospital elective surgery waiting lists. This was 0.9% higher than the previous year, which represented growth well below the average over the past 4 years (an estimated 2.4% per year).

In the same year, 871,000 patients were removed from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists. Most patients removed from waiting lists were admitted for their awaited procedure; however, about 14% were removed from waiting lists for other reasons.

The number of admissions was 0.1% higher than the previous year, also well below the average growth over the previous 4 years (an estimated 1.7% per year).

General surgery was the most common surgical specialty (21%) followed by Orthopaedic surgery (15%).

The number of admissions (and admissions per 1,000 population) fell in 2017–18 from the previous year for Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Although the number of admissions rose in New South Wales, admissions per 1,000 population fell in New South Wales without a concurrent fall in the number of admissions.

Waiting times increasing

In 2017–18, the time within which 50% of patients were admitted for elective surgery (median waiting time) was 40 days, up from 38 days the previous year and 36 days in 2013–14.

The waiting time for 50% of patients ranged from 23 days in the Northern Territory to 55 days in New South Wales.

For individual surgeries, Coronary artery bypass graft had the shortest waiting time for 50% of patients (17 days), and Septoplasty (to fix a deviated nasal septum) had the longest (248 days).

The waiting time for 50% of Indigenous Australians (48 days) was higher than for other Australians (40 days).

The proportion of patients who waited longer than 365 days to be admitted for surgery— was 1.8% in 2017–18, up from 1.7% the previous year but below the proportion in 2013–14 (2.4%).