A&E Departments in Wales Show Deteriorating Performance

Peter Russell

November 22, 2019

Emergency care statistics have revealed declining performance in emergency departments across Wales.

Data for October 2019 showed that only 69.5% of patients were seen within the 4-hour target in major departments. This represents a decrease of 5.9% when compared with October 2018.

The total for all of Wales was higher at 75.3%.

Figures for waits of less than 4 hours across major A&E departments in Wales ranged from 60.6% in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to 80.7% in Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

The number of patients waiting 12 hours or more in emergency care facilities were 5547, the figures showed. That was an increase of 1594 patients compared to October 2018.

A&E Overcrowding

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said it was vital to reduce crowding in emergency departments.

Commenting on the latest statistics, Dr Jo Mower, vice president of RCEM Wales, said: "I became a Consultant in Emergency Medicine in 2004 and since then we have seen attendances and patient admissions soar across the 13 Type 1 emergency departments in Wales.

"The reduction of community beds in Wales means that we cannot admit patients from the emergency department as quickly as we would like to, resulting in crowded wards and corridor-based care.

"As vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Wales I know staff morale in our emergency departments is at an all-time low as a result of this crowding. There is an urgent need to eliminate crowding to help improve staff morale and patient experience when attending an emergency department.

"Unlike England, our 12-hour breeches are measured from the time a patient arrives at the emergency department. In England the time to a 12-hour breech is measured once there has been a decision to admit the patient, which could be several hours after arrival."

The figures also showed a deterioration in ambulance response times to 'red calls' requiring arrival at the scene within 8 minutes.

In October 2018, an ambulance arrived in time in 74.7% of 'red calls' compared with 66.3% in October 2019.

However, that was still above the target of 65%.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Last month was the busiest October on record for emergency departments in Wales and the ambulance service had the busiest month ever for the most serious 'red' calls, which have increased by 35% since October 2015.

"Despite this, the average waiting times in emergency departments have remained steady and the ambulance service exceeded its target for the 49th consecutive month. The number of delayed transfers of care also decreased in October.

"This year we have provided an extra £30m to health boards and local authorities, earlier than ever before, to help them add health and social care capacity in preparation for the increased winter pressures.

"The on-going pressures and uncertainty around HMRC tax and pension issues are also impacting on waiting times for scheduled care.

"We are disappointed in the increase in long waits compared to this time last year, and are working with health boards to ensure they improve in this area, and deliver the best possible outcome for patients."

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