Last month saw the longest waiting lists for NHS treatment and the worst A&E waiting times on record for Wales, leading worries from the Conservatives that it will take years to return to an acceptable level.
Around a fifth of the Welsh population (625,000) are on patient pathways in Wales, waiting for NHS treatment, while 3-in-10 patients waited longer than the four hour target to be seen in A&E. While 70% of Welsh A&E patients were seen in four hours, it was 78% in England.
It was revealed that one-in-four patients are waiting over a year for treatment, compared to only 1-in-18 in England. For these procedures, those in Wales are also having to wait more than twice as long (21.6 weeks) than their English counterparts, who are waiting 10.4 weeks on average.
NHS Wales statistics for July 2021, released today, also showed:
- The Welsh Government’s flagship new hospital, The Grange in Cwmbran, had the worst A&E record for an individual hospital with only 44% of patients being seen within four hours;
- Rising numbers of A&E patients waiting over 12 hours to be seen, with 7,084 patients waiting over half a day compared with 5,949 in June;
- Those over 85 years of age are waiting over six hours to be seen on average; and
- Cancer treatment times continued to be missed with only 67% being treated within 62 days.
Figures for ambulance call-outs showed 58% of emergency responses to immediately life-threatening calls – or red calls – arrived within the eight minute target, down from 61% in June. It marks the 12th consecutive month the target for 65% of ambulances getting to red calls in eight minutes has not been reached.
Waiting times for amber ambulance calls also deteriorated with less than a quarter (22%) arriving within 30 minutes, with just 15% in the Cardiff & Vale health board area arriving in that time.
The news comes on the same day the Welsh Government announced new funding to tackle NHS backlogs which the Conservatives said was “well overdue” and that “it is essential that this money does not run simply run out and there must be a long-term view to ensuring that we are not again in a position when one fifth of the population in Wales are expecting treatment.”
Commenting on the figures, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS, said: “Even before the pandemic, we were used to seeing some devastating numbers on healthcare in Wales due to Labour mismanagement. But to record the worst ever A&E waiting times and the longest NHS treatment waiting list in the same month shows a complete lack of leadership.
“Given how catastrophic these numbers are, it makes you wonder how many years before we can expect to get close to breaking all the right records rather than all the wrong ones.
“Although we know August is a difficult month for A&E, now that we are well past Covid peaks, we should be seeing improvements in meeting the needs of patients. We are seeing this in England but sadly not in Wales, something that is simply not acceptable.
“The funding announced to tackle the backlogs is a start and hopefully will be directed towards our calls for filling the 3,000 NHS staff vacancies, expanding the use of rapid diagnostic centres, and exploring the introduction of specialist hubs to tackle routine surgery as soon as possible.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Waiting times for treatment continue to grow. However, it is encouraging to see progress being made with the number of patients waiting over 52 weeks falling for the third month in a row. We also saw the largest number of specialist consultations completed and treatments started in any month since the start of the pandemic.
“The total number of patients starting their first cancer treatment and the number of patients starting treatment within the target time were the second highest since the current records began.
“Today we announced a further £140m to help NHS Wales tackle the treatment backlog built up during the Covid pandemic. This is on top of the initial £100m announced in May.
“Pressures on our emergency services are also growing. The ambulance service received more calls last month than in any month since the pandemic began. Attendance at emergency departments was also the highest since the start of the pandemic.
“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.
“Last month the Health Minister announced plans to transform the delivery of urgent and emergency care, supported by £25m a year. We are working with health boards to deliver these plans well ahead of winter.”
(Lead image: RODNAE Productions / Pexels.com)