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Issues in Welsh Emergency Departments must be at the top of the new First Minister’s agenda – RCEM Wales

18 April 2024

Wales’ new First Minister must prioritise improving the situation in the country’s emergency departments as new statistics show patients are continuing to experience extremely long waits.

The A&E performance data – released today (18 April 2024) by the Welsh Government and covering March 2024 – shows in some instances people are experiencing waits up to three times as long compared to previous years.

Last month was the second worst March since records began, with nearly 67,000 people arriving in emergency departments across Wales.

The data also reveals:

  • The proportion of four and eight-hour waits in March 2024 increased from the previous month. The proportion of 12-hour waits decreased slightly.
  • 43.2% of patients waited who visited an ED waited four hours or more with almost one in four patients having to wait more than eight hours. Shockingly, one in seven people were subjected to waits of 12 hours or more.
  • Since March 2017, the number of people waiting over four hours increased by 80%, the numbers waiting more than eight hours by nearly145%, and the numbers waiting more than 12 hours more than tripled (221%). This is despite attendance decreasing by 1.3% in the same period.

Wales’ new First Minister Vaughan Gething – who is himself a former health minister – was appointed in March.

Dr Rob Perry, RCEM Vice President for Wales, said: “There are some slight improvements visible in this data which have to be considered as positive, but we can’t ignore the fact that the situation remains extremely challenging in Wales’ emergency departments.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that overcrowding in these departments leads to patient harm, and the very significant increase in patients waiting more than 12 hours is particularly worrying.

“Mr Gething’s background, as a former minister for health and social care, makes him fully aware of the difficulties faced by our emergency departments, and by our members and their colleagues who keep them running.

“Since he was appointed, we have seen some positive signs that healthcare is firmly on his agenda – and that of his health minister – and we look forward to working with them to constructively address these issues, to ensure Wales has the Urgent and Emergency Care system healthcare professionals want, and patients deserve.”

Today’s data does not contain the details of ‘breach exemptions’.

This is the policy by which patients whose stay in a Welsh ED exceeds the four-hour target are not considered to have breached it if they will complete the treatment within the A&E department.

RCEM is pushing for this data to be published routinely and will continue to work with the Welsh Government and Stats Wales to achieve this.

See a visual representation of Wales ED performance data.

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