Wales

More patients wait 12 hours in A&E units

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More patients are having to wait more than 12 hours at accident and emergency units in Wales compared to a year ago.

There were a total of 4,069 patients waiting in January, compared to 3,290 in the same month the year before.

The proportion of patients waiting less than four hours held steady, according to the latest monthly figures.

In January, 79% of patients waited under four hours to be seen, a slight improvement on 78.6% for the same month in 2016.

The monthly figures look at times patients wait from arrival to their discharge, admission or transfer.

There is a target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours and no patients should wait more than 12 hours.

The picture in Wales appears steadier than the position in NHS England, where leaked figures suggested record numbers of patients were waiting more than four hours to start treatment. In Wales:

  • 79% of patients waited less than four hours - compared to 78.6% in January 2016, but still behind the same month in the previous three years
  • In Wales for January 2017, 94.8% of patients were seen within 12 hours, compared to 95.9% in the year before
  • It meant 4,069 patients waited more than 12 hours - up from 3,290 in January 2016. It was up over the month too, from 2,425 in December. But it is lower than the figure during last year's peak for winter pressures in March 2016
  • Proportionately, Morriston Hospital in Swansea had fewest patients waiting less than four hours - but the figure of 62.2% of patients was an improvement of only 56.5% seen within that time frame in January 2016.
  • Wales' largest hospital, the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, saw nearly 11,000 patients in January but has the best record for 12 hour waits of all major units with 155 patients having to wait that long; this compares with Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire where 579 of its 4,316 patients waited more than 12 hours.
  • There were slightly fewer numbers of patients attending A&E in January 2017 (78,586) compared to the previous year (80,453).

Analysis from Owain Clarke, BBC Wales health correspondent

The rise in the proportion and numbers of patients spending the longest amount of time in A&E will worry NHS Wales and the health secretary. Particularly because, according to the targets, nobody should be waiting that long.

However, there is better news in that A&E departments in Wales seem to be holding steady this winter, compared to last on performance against the headline four hour target.

That will be particularly encouraging to NHS chiefs considering the statistics emerging from England suggest a serious deterioration on this measure this winter.

Undoubtedly there will be sighs of relief in the Welsh Government that the system appears to have recovered somewhat after what many judged to be an immensely difficult first week in January.

However, that will be little comfort to more than 4,000 patients who had to stay longer than half a day in emergency departments.

The Welsh Government said urgent and emergency care services were under "extraordinary pressure at times in January".

"Despite this, A&E clinicians and support staff have enabled almost eight in every 10 patients to spend less than four hours in emergency care departments from their arrival, until admission, transfer or discharge," said a spokesperson.

Conservative health spokeswoman Angela Burns AM called the figures extremely disappointing and the marked increase in 12 hour waits "especially frustrating".

She added: "There are a number of factors which have contributed to this rise - too few hospital beds, difficulties accessing GP appointments, and of course, the closure of local minor injury units."

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said staff were being asked to do the impossible.

"We're seeing the predictable results of a failure to recruit enough doctors, centralising services and a chronic under-investment in out of hours and social care, and it's getting worse every winter," he said.

Vanessa Young, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: "Staff have been working incredibly hard to deliver care to patients and it's important that we recognise these efforts."

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