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06 Jan 2015

Improving elective surgery waiting times

A review of the Implementation of the Elective Surgery Targets and National Access Guarantee and the Four Hour National Access Emergency Department Target

As part of national health reform, the Australian Government is working to improve hospital standards by introducing new emergency department and elective surgery targets, and a National Access Guarantee.

The reforms to elective surgery targets are of particular interest to women with breast cancer who may be waiting for delayed breast reconstruction surgery in the public health system.

In October 2010, BCNA surveyed members about waiting times for breast reconstruction surgery and found that some women were waiting around two years for their surgery in a public hospital. You can read more about our survey results in our Breast Reconstruction Survey 2010 Report.

Under the new elective surgery targets, state and territory governments are required to improve their elective surgery waiting times.

Most delayed breast reconstruction surgery is classified as Urgency Category 3. The new target for Category 3 surgery is:

95 per cent of Urgency Category 3 patients waiting for surgery are seen within the clinically recommended time (365 days) by 31 December 2015.

The Government is also introducing the National Access Guarantee. This will ensure that, from 1 July 2012, anyone who has not received their surgery within the clinically recommended times will be prioritised and have their surgery fast-tracked.

For Urgency Category 3 surgery this will mean that, from 1 July 2012, women who have already waited 365 days must have their surgery within the next 60 days. From 1 July 2014, this will be reduced to 45 days.

The Department of Health and Ageing has established an Expert Panel to review the way these targets will be implemented and applied. BCNA has made a submission to the review, supporting the new elective surgery targets and the National Access Guarantee. We hope this will improve women's access to delayed breast reconstruction surgery in public hospitals.

We have raised some questions in our submission which we hope will be addressed:

  • If women do not receive their surgery within the new required time frames, what should they do?
  • How will the Government promote the new elective surgery targets and National Access Guarantee, to ensure that members of the public are aware of their rights under these new standards?

More Information