Worst January on record for Welsh A&E departments

Nearly one-in-four (22.8%) patients in Welsh hospitals waited longer than the four hour target in Accident and Emergency departments – the largest ever figure for the month of January.

Last month also had the highest number of patients spending 12 hours or more in an emergency care facility since March 2018 and is the second highest on record.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board once again was the worst performing area for these waiting times, seeing only one in three of their patients within four hours, while over 10% of their patients had to wait over 12 hours to be seen.

The Welsh Government target of seeing 95% of patients in four hours has never been met since being established over a decade ago. It also says not a single patient should have to wait longer than 12 hours.

It comes as the North Wales health board blamed increasing numbers of elderly patients and staff shortages for two of their hospitals recording the worst ever A&E performances for individual sites last summer.

However, despite the Welsh Government and health commissioners continuing to state that attendances of elderly people at A&E put strain on services, there has been a reduction of over 70s attending A&E in January 2019 compared to the previous month in Wales.

Today’s monthly health figures also revealed a sharp drop in the number of referrals for first outpatients appointments reducing by 22,529 referrals on the previous month, suggesting that health boards are scaling back their scheduled care for the coming months in a potential bid to relieve pressure on the system.

Responding, the Welsh Conservative, Shadow Health Minister Angela Burns AM, said:

“Last month we were talking about the worst December on record, and like I said then this depressing circle of underperformance and mismanagement has become the new normal.

“It is true that an ageing population and Welsh Government failure to fill staff shortages are having a huge negative impact on the ability of NHS Wales’ A&E departments to meet demand.

“But these are not blips or inconveniences: they are the reality in which healthcare must be provided in Wales. One cannot stop demographics of patients, but a change of management at the top is possible through a change of government.

“It is no good using the context in which services must be delivered for years – even decades – as an excuse. People expect and deserve a quality health service through the hard times and well as the easy.

“I urge everybody to keep demanding that quality, and not settle for this sorry state of affairs.”