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Performance remains at record low, as new data show significant staffing shortages across Wales

23 December 2021

The latest Emergency Department performance figures for November 2021 published by the Welsh government show:

  • There were 61,384 attendances to major Emergency Departments (a decrease of 7% on the previous month, October 2021)
  • Four-hour performance at major Emergency Departments was 58.8% (an improvement of 1.5 percentage points on the previous month, but still the second lowest on record)
  • One in seven patients were delayed by 12 hours or more at a major Emergency Department
  • More than two in five patients were delayed by four hours or more at a major Emergency Department
  • Over one quarter of patients were delayed by eight hours or more at a major Emergency Department
  • Bed occupancy for general and acute admissions stood at 89.41%, this is the highest bed occupancy level since the start of the pandemic.

Despite a 7% decrease in attendances, equal to nearly 5,000 patients, compared to the previous month, performance remained at record low levels with many patients facing long waits.

Responding to these figures, Dr Suresh Pillai, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Wales, said:

“The continued poor performance shows the dire crisis that the Health Service in Wales is facing. The situation is extremely challenging right now, and the threat of a more transmissible variant of covid means staff are extremely concerned about the weeks ahead.

“Health Care workers are doing all they can, they are working tirelessly to keep patients safe and continue delivering effective care. But the mounting pressures mean long waiting times, ambulance handover delays, dangerous corridor care and crowding are all becoming more and more frequent. We know these appalling practices threaten patient safety and can lead to avoidable harm or death.

“We are concerned that any surge in covid cases and infections could lead to a high number of staff absences, which would further effect the delivery of care and put even more pressure on an already highly pressurised system. It is crucial that we are able to continue to deliver urgent and emergency care.

“These performance figures come as the Welsh Conservatives this week uncovered consultant staffing levels across Wales. The data revealed a shortfall of over 50% of WTE consultants and that all Boards were well below the baseline of one consultant per 4,000 attendances. These new figures correspond with our estimations that there is a shortfall of 100 WTE consultants in Wales. And yet this does not paint the full picture, there are also widespread shortages of junior doctors and trainees, SAS doctors, supporting staff and particularly of essential Emergency Medicine nurses.

“The current crisis must be a call to action, we urge the Welsh government to commit to publishing a long-term workforce plan. This must include measures to ensure we retain existing staff as well as recruiting new staff into the health service.

“The coming weeks will be a significant challenge. We hope the public will recognise the pressures facing the health service and we urge the public to be cautious over the Christmas period and in the coming weeks. Using face masks, avoiding crowded places, getting tested and isolating if you have symptoms, and critically, to get vaccinated or boosted – all these things will make a difference.”

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