In 2011-12, Australia's public hospitals admitted about 662,000 patients from elective surgery waiting lists, as either elective or emergency admissions.
Almost one in four of these patients was admitted for General surgery (surgery on organs of the abdomen) and about one in seven was admitted for Orthopaedic surgery (surgery on bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, including knee and hip replacements).
Between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the increase in admissions was 5.5%. This increase was driven, in part, by an increase in the number of smaller hospitals reporting elective surgery waiting times data. There were notable increases in the numbers of reporting hospitals for South Australia (32 additional hospitals), and Western Australia (22 additional hospitals).
Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, admissions from elective surgery waiting lists increased by an average of 3.8% per year, and by an average of 2.7% for hospitals that reported throughout the period.
Elective surgery admissions per 1,000 population increased by an average of 2.2% per year, from 27.0 per 1,000 in 2007-08, to 29.4 per 1,000 in 2011-12. These numbers are not adjusted for changes in the numbers of hospitals reporting over this period.
How long did people wait for surgery?
In 2011-12, 50% of patients waited up to 36 days for public elective surgery, an increase over the 34 days in 2007-08 and unchanged since 2010-11. The median waiting time ranged from 27 days in Queensland to 63 days in the Australian Capital Territory.
The median waiting time was shortest for Principal referral and specialist women's and children's hospitals (35 days). It was 40 days in Large hospitals and 44 days in Medium hospitals.
The surgical specialties with the longest median waiting times in 2011-12 were Ophthalmology, Ear, nose and throat surgery and Orthopaedic surgery (74, 66, and 63 days, respectively). Cardiothoracic surgery had the shortest median waiting time (16 days).
Coronary artery bypass graft was the procedure with the shortest median waiting time (16 days) and Total knee replacement had the longest median waiting time (184 days).
Overall, the amount of time within which 90% of patients were admitted for the awaited procedure increased from 234 days in 2007-08 to 251 days in 2011-12. In 2011-12, the 90th percentile waiting time ranged from 147 days in Queensland to 348 days in Tasmania.
Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, the proportion of patients who waited more than a year to be admitted for their surgery decreased from 3.0% to 2.7%. In 2011-12, the proportion of patients who waited more than a year ranged from 1.5% in South Australia to 9.4% in Tasmania.
Ear, nose and throat surgery and Orthopaedic surgery were the surgical specialties with the highest proportion of patients who waited more than a year (5.6% and 5.4%, respectively). Cardiothoracic surgery had the lowest proportion (0.1%).
Septoplasty and Total knee replacement were the procedures with the highest proportion of patients who waited more than a year (11.9% and 11.6%, respectively).