Waiting list shame in Spain: 850,000 people are awaiting vital surgery in the public health system – the worst figure since records began

OPERATION waiting lists in Spain’s public hospital system have reached a record high of 849,535 as of December 31, 2023.

Twice-yearly figures are released by the Ministry of Health, and show a 30,000 increase compared to last summer.

It’s the fifth successive report to show rising operation waiting times, and the only worst modern figure was in June 2020 when nearly all routine procedures were postponed due to the Covid pandemic.



Average delays from when a doctor or consultant believes an operation is needed has risen from 112 to 128 days between last July and December.

The of those who have had to wait more than six months is now one in four patients, compared to the first half of 2023 which stood at 17.4%.

By specialisms, traumatology has the most patients on the waiting list (206,000), followed by ophthalmology (178,000) and general surgery and the digestive system (156,000).

The longest waits, however, occur for cosmetic surgery (239 days on average) and neurosurgery (213).

By region, the biggest delays are in Extremadura (181 days on average), Andalucia (174 days) and Cantabria (173), while the shortest are in Madrid (51 days), the Basque Country (63) and Galicia (67).

The figures are not good news for Pedro Sanchez’s government, even though it is down to the regions to manage waiting lists.

Last years’ coalition agreement between Sanchez’s PSOE socialists and the far-left Sumar party established a law that nobody would have to wait more than an average of 120 days for an operation in the public health system.

The average figure of 128 days exceeds that limit, with the exceptional circumstances with Covid back in June 2020 beating that.

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