Reducing Surgical Waitlists in Australia

Surgical waitlists and wait times have been increasing over the past five years in Australia. With the suspension of elective surgeries, and changes in healthcare seeking behaviour in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, surgical backlog has emerged.  

Fortunately, states and territories have determined that processing the surgical backlog is a priority. This renewed attention to surgical waitlists affords us an opportunity to stop and think and address the multiple longstanding challenges in current waitlist management. To take advantage of this opportunity, researchers at the PCHSS and Australian Institute of Health Innovation have completed a rapid review of the global literature on strategies for managing surgical waitlists. In this literature review, we have synthesised the best available evidence for managing the impending surgical backlog and preventing future increases in surgical waitlists 

For ease of reference, the information is presented under three priority areas: 1) Streamlining processes and patient journeys to address the surgical waitlist backlog; 2) Improving waitlist management and prioritisation strategies; and 3) Reducing low-value care.  We anticipate that this report will be a valuable resource when reviewing current surgical waitlist management practices. 

In the same way that flattening the curve during the COVID-19 pandemic gave us time to increase ICU capacity, this point in the course of the pandemic affords us with an opportunity to review and implement strategies to address and minimise the expected surge in demand when post-COVID-19 care resumes.  It also gives us the opportunity to strengthen our systems capacity against future pandemics and challenges. 

The Reducing Surgical Waitlists Report is available for download now.

Suggested Citation:

Smith, K-L, Meulenbroeks, I., Mahmoud, Z., Zurynski, Y., Clay-Williams, R., Hughes, C., Long, J. C., Sarkies, M., Ellis, L. A., Gibbons, K., Pomare, C., Nguyen, H. M., Clay, C., Braithwaite, J. Reducing surgical waitlist times in Australia. Sydney: Australian Institute of Health Innovation and NHRMC Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability, 2020.

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