WAITING times for hospital treatment in the region have been described as “unacceptable”.
Figures released by the Welsh Government showed a general worsening of the number of patients treated within target times in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) hospitals.
There has been a sharp rise in the number of people waiting more than 36 weeks to start hospital treatment – with 4,561 patients having waited longer than 36 weeks as of May - a total of 5.1 per cent of patients.
Welsh Government policy is for 95 per cent of patients to be treated within 26 weeks and for 100 per cent of patients to be treated within 36 weeks from referral by a GP or other medical practitioner to hospital for treatment.
The Welsh Government said the average waiting time for the BCUHB area is 10 weeks.
BCUHB said it achieved a “small improvement” in the number of patients waiting more than 36 weeks in June.
North Wales AM Aled Roberts said: “There has been a marked decline month on month since March 2014.
“In April this year within the Betsi Cadwaladr area, the percentage of patients waiting less than 36 weeks was the lowest of any Welsh Health Board.
“That means more and more people each month are having to wait more than 36 weeks for treatment – that’s over nine months.
“It’s a totally unacceptable time for anybody to have to wait for treatment.”
In May this year, 84.8 per cent of patients in the BCUHB area were treated after having waited less than 26 weeks, down from 86.4 per cent in April.
In Wales overall, an average of 87.7 per cent and 86.3 per cent were treated in less than 26 weeks in April and May respectively.
In November 2012, 92.3 per cent of patients BCUHB treated had waited less than 26 weeks.
Mr Roberts added: “The figures for those waiting less than 26 weeks aren’t much better.
“This is still an unacceptable period for anybody to wait for medical treatment.”
Mr Roberts challenged new BCUHB chief executive, Prof Trevor Purt and new chairman Dr Peter Higson, to take immediate action to reverse the increasing number of people who having to wait for long periods before getting medical treatment.”
North Wales AM Mark Isherwood said a “common factor” in cases where patients wait too long is that the people concerned are over 70.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The majority of patients continue to wait less than 26 weeks, and the median (standard) wait for treatment at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board hospitals is 10 weeks.
“ We continue to work closely with the health board to make sure patients receive treatment in a timely and clinically determined manner.”
A spokesman for BCUHB said: “We recognise the importance of timely access to planned care for patients in North Wales and are working actively to reduce our waiting times.
“This has involved arranging additional services to be provided both within North Wales hospitals and through collaboration with English NHS providers.
“We’re focussed on ensuring patients are treated in order of clinical urgency and that our access to first outpatient appointments improves to enable diagnosis and treatment plans to be agreed with patients.
“During June, a significant number of additional clinics were undertaken which resulted in a small improvement in numbers waiting over 36 weeks being achieved in June.
“We are planning further additional clinics and theatre sessions for our patients to reduce the waiting times.
“We have developed plans to continue this improvement throughout the year and will be making significant investment to support these plans.”