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1 in 10 patients waiting for 12 hours or more in Wales as RCEM warns hospital activity will rapidly increase in coming months

18 March 2021

NHS Wales activity and performance data published today by the Welsh Government for February 2021 shows that over 1 in 10 patients attending a major department waited for 12 hours or more to be admitted.

The data show that in February 2021, 43,763 patients attended major departments across Wales and 4,901 of those patients waited 12 hours or more.

Attendance is still significantly lower than previous years with 31% fewer patients attending major departments in February 2021 compared to February 2020.

The data also show that 68.1% of patients were seen within the four-hour target in major departments, meaning that one third of patients are waiting for more than four hours to be admitted. This is a slight decrease from January 2021 of 0.2 percentage points and a decrease of 0.7 percentage points when compared to February 2020.

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

“I am shocked by this data. February 2021 saw the lowest attendances at Emergency Departments since April 2020, and yet one in ten patients are waiting for 12-hours or more. It is appalling.

“We urgently need a system-wide approach to tackle these issues and to work with other departments to ensure we put a stop to these lengthy delays.

“It is essential we address this as in the coming weeks and months we expect the amount of hospital activity to rapidly increase. Staff are already exhausted and having NHS recovery and the recommencing of regular NHS services in tandem will be a serious challenge.

“The challenge is intensified by the ongoing workforce crisis and staff shortages – meaning existing staff will have no rest or respite as Emergency Departments see a return of community patients and hospitals begin to recommence NHS services and tackle the lengthy waiting lists for elective and non-urgent care.

“In the longer term, it is essential that board leaders and staff begin thinking about and preparing for next winter which will likely bring a combination of seasonal flu together with what could likely be seasonal covid, both of which may have a severe impact in the community, on the NHS and its services.

“Without adequate funding or resources and with a depleted workforce, staff will have to face NHS recovery, a return to regular services and prepare for next winter simultaneously – an ask that is too big after the incredibly tough year the NHS and its existing staff have faced – but without any short-term solutions they have been left with no choice.”

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