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 5 years (an estimated 2.4% per year).

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

The number of patients admitted (admissions) was 0.1% higher than the previous year, also well below the average growth over the previous 5 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.

Waiting times increasing

In 2017–18, the overall median waiting time for admission for elective surgery was 40 days, up from 38 days the previous year and 36 days in 2013–14.

The median waiting time 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 median waiting time (17 days), and Septoplasty (to fix a deviated nasal septum) had the longest (248 days).

The median waiting time for 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 was 1.8% in 2017–18, up from 1.7% in the previous year but below the proportion in 2013–14 (2.4%).