Posted: Thu 23rd Sep 2021

A&E waiting times in Wales were “the worst on record” last month, new figures reveal

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

A&E waiting times in Wales were “the worst on record” last month, new figures released today have revealed.

Monthly Welsh Government data shows that pressure on the health and ambulance services continued to increase during August, with just 68.7% of the 61,281 patients attending Welsh NHS emergency departments spending less than four hours in the department from arrival until admission.

This is 1.6 percentage points lower than the previous month, 11.3 percentage points lower than the same month in 2020, and 8.8 percentage points lower than the same month in 2019.

The target of 95% of patients spending less than four hours in an emergency department was not hit.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was the worst performing in Wales, with 64.9% of A&E attendees spending less than the target time waiting to be seen.

In Wrexham of the 5,091 people who attended the Maelor’s emergency department, 2,582 – 50.7% were seen within four hours.

Earlier this week the health board issued a plea to the public to only attend the department if necessary due to the increased demand currently being experienced.

In North Wales 77.9% of patients were seen within eight hours and 86.7% under 12 hours.

The Welsh Ambulance Service also continued to experience significant pressure throughout August. Although the daily average calls in all categories decreased compared to July 2021, more calls were made than in any other August since comparable data has been collected

For the third month in a row, there was an average of more than 100 immediately life-threatening (‘red’ calls) a day.

The percentage of red calls receiving a response within 8 minutes was 57.6% in August 2021, down slightly from the previous month, lower than pre-pandemic levels and below the 65% target for the thirteenth consecutive month.

Earlier this week the Welsh Ambulance Service confirmed that it had requested support from the military in a bid to ease the pressure being faced by the trust.

The impact of the pandemic is continuing to be seen on the waiting times for people waiting to start treatment.

Overall the number of patient pathways waiting for diagnostic tests increased in July 2021 compared to the previous month and the number waiting longer than the target time also increased.

The number of patient pathways waiting for diagnostics remains markedly higher than before the pandemic started.

As of July 2021 643,108 people in Wales are waiting to start treatment. This is the highest since comparable data was first collected in 2011.

The number waiting in July 2021 was 2.9% higher than in the previous month and 39.2% higher than in the same month before the pandemic (July 2019).

353,677 of those have been waiting up to 26 weeks to begin, 50,236 have been waiting 26-36 weeks and 239,195 have been waiting more than 36 weeks.

In North Wales there are 135,398 people waiting to start treatment, up slightly from the 131,362 recorded in June 2021.

Commenting on today’s figures, Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS, said: “We are seeing both emergency and elective treatment in the NHS reaching its limit right now. This is leading to unacceptable waits for patients and intolerable burnout for hard-working staff.

“However, this is not the new normal. Not long before the pandemic, the Labour-run NHS was regularly breaking all the wrong records. Among the Covid-related issues affecting public services, there are deep-rooted problems that have not been tackled in the devolution era.

“A little progress has been made with the British Army recently recruited to help in the NHS, but we need so much more than that. To solve a problem, ministers must accept that there is one.

“That’s why we were disappointed to see Labour reject an ambulance emergency yesterday, are concerned that they haven’t yet released a winter plan for the NHS and take on our outlined proposals, and fearful that these long waiting times can still get worse.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Despite increasing pressures during unprecedented levels of demand and activity, our hardworking NHS staff continue to deliver high levels of care treating patients during a pandemic.

“Activity levels in cancer services remain high with the second highest number of patients informed they did not have cancer and the third highest number of patients newly diagnosed with cancer starting their first definitive treatment.

“Waiting times remain above pre-pandemic levels and ambulance response times continue to be below target levels. However, although the number of patient pathways waiting longer than 36 weeks continues to be a record high, a higher percentage of patient pathways were waiting less than 26 weeks and the average (median) waiting time for treatment decreased slightly when compared to the previous month.

“Pressures on our emergency services continue to remain high. The number of attendances to all NHS Wales emergency departments and average number of emergency department attendances per day in August 2021 were slightly lower than the previous month, but were still higher than last year.

“There were more emergency ambulance calls in August 2021, than in any other August, since comparable data was first collected in October 2015. The proportion of all calls that were immediately life-threatening (red calls) was also the second highest since call handling practices were updated in May 2019.

“We have made £25m funding available to improve delivery of urgent and emergency care services. The Emergency Ambulance Services Committee also has an active delivery plan with action to help manage 999 demand in the community, increase capacity, improve responsiveness, improve ambulance patient handover. There are also plans to improve the flow of patients through the hospital system and out into the community.

“We encourage people to consider the best options for care, and not necessarily head to their local emergency department. To get the right care, first time people can also use the online 111 service and their local pharmacist where appropriate.”



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