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‘A catastrophic winter may lie ahead of us’ RCEM Wales warns

21 September 2023

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned that ‘a catastrophic winter may lie ahead’ as the latest Welsh A&E data show that extreme pressures are already being experienced.

The new data reveal that in August around one in every six patients who visited a Welsh Emergency Department waited more than 12 hours.

The Emergency Department performance statistics for August 2023, published by the Welsh government today (21 September 2023), show:

  • 66,179 people attended major A&Es – 9% less than the previous month (68,129) but 1.8% more than in August 2022 (64,974).
  • Overall, 58.2% of people attending major A&Es were admitted, transferred, or discharged within four-hours from arrival which is a 2.1 percentage-point decrease when compared with July. And a 2.4 percentage-point increase when compared with August 2022.
    • This is well below the target that states: 95% of patients should spend less than four-hours in an A&E from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge).
  • 16% of patients attending major A&Es waited more than eight-hours (15,987 patients) which means that nearly one in four patients was delayed eight-hours or more at a major A&E.
  • 08% of people attending major A&Es attendances waited more than 12-hours (9,977 patients). This means nearly one in six patients were delayed by 12-hours or more.

Dr Suresh Pillai, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Wales, commented:

“Today’s data is deeply concerning. The warmer months which usually offer some respite, offered none.

“Our members are doing all they can to ensure patients receive timely care in A&Es, but it continues to be a significant challenge.

“Patients deserve better than to face these dangerously long delays to receive emergency care.

“We are anxious that winter will be a repeat, or worse, of last year, which brought queues of ambulances outside dangerously overcrowded A&Es and full hospitals.

“We urge the Welsh Government to publish a robust winter plan, this must include our Five Priorities to #ResuscicateEmergencyCare.

“A catastrophic winter may lie ahead of us; we are deeply worried about what this could bring.”

Some patients facing 12-hour waits or more continue to be excluded from the 12-hour length-of-stay data because they are classified as ‘breach exemptions’.

RCEM Wales continues to call on the Welsh government to publish fully transparent and meaningful data. No patient should be hidden, and the true scale of long waits needs to be understood to tackle the issues.

Data for hospital bed occupancy – which indicates how full hospitals are – are longer being updated, according to the Stats Wales website. The most recent data is for 12 July 2023.

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