WALES’ health minister has warned it is “not going to be easy” to fix the nation’s waiting lists for NHS treatment, which this month hit 707,000 people.

Eluned Morgan said the Welsh Government’s new plan to modernise planned care services would help clear the backlog, which built up during the pandemic when many non-urgent treatments were postponed.

But critics fear the health service may not be able to cope with the scale of the challenge.

Russell George, the Conservative shadow health minister and chairman of the Senedd’s health committee, said healthcare organisations “want to see [the plan] succeed, as, of course, do I, but they also have concerns about whether the plan is sufficiently detailed, and whether it provides a clear enough vision for the transformation of our health services, and whether there is enough capacity to deliver it”.

Earlier this month, the same Senedd committee delivered a damning report on the nation’s waiting lists for treatments, recommending a sweeping set of changes to improve care and communication with patients.

“What is important to say is that before the pandemic, people were already waiting far too long for diagnosis, care and treatment,” Mr George said. “Covid has of course made the situation worse across all specialities and all stages of patient pathways.

“It is frequently said that the equivalent of one in five people in Wales are on a waiting list for diagnosis or treatment. Behind those numbers are of course individuals whose daily lives and potentially those of their families, friends and carers are being affected by delayed diagnosis or care.”

The Welsh Government has decided to accept 26 of the committee’s 27 recommendations and partially accept the other one, but in the Senedd on Wednesday Ms Morgan said the end of Covid restrictions should mean “we can now start to see and treat even more patients”.

Plaid Cymru MS Heledd Fychan called on the health minister to accept “there is a crisis” and said “we need to be honest with people instead of trying to hide behind different plans and schemes”.

Ms Morgan accepted the situation “is not great” but added “I don’t think we’re in a crisis”, pointing to figures that showed 315,0000 people were being seen “in secondary care alone every month”.

“That's not a system that's broken,” she added. “That's a system that's working very well. And all those thousands of people working in the NHS, I think, would accept that, yes, it's under massive pressure. My God, they are working for those 315,000 people they are seeing on a monthly basis.”

Mr George told the minister “we can’t simply aim to return to where we were back in March 2020”.

He added: “We’ve got to use this opportunity to reset, and we need to see sustainable investment.”