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RCEM Wales: we must not allow pressures on Emergency Departments to derail elective care

20 May 2021

Emergency Department performance figures published today by the Welsh Government for April 2021 show that attendances continue to increase and pressure on Emergency Departments continues to rise. The data show in April 2021 there were 63,333 attendances to major departments. This is an increase of 12% when compared to March 2021, a 45% increase when compared to February 2021, and a 79% increase when compared to April 2020.

Performance wise, the data show that 67.1% of patients were seen, treated or discharged within four hours in major departments across Wales. This represents the second worst performance since the start of the pandemic. It is a decrease of 2.5 percentage points when compared to the previous month, March 2021.

9,596 patients were delayed by eight hours or more; a 15% increase compared to March 2021, and equal to 3 in 20 patients. Furthermore, 4,550 patients were delayed by 12 hours or more. This is an increase of 6% compared to March 2021.

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

“As the data show there has been a significant jump in Emergency Department (ED) attendances and activity – nearly 7,000 more patients attending than last month. EDs have become extremely busy and our urgent and emergency care system is once again facing serious pressures.

“The pressures have led to a decrease in performance, meaning more patients are delayed and stay in departments longer, which poses a risk to patient safety – especially with covid still a high risk.

“More significantly, the increase in attendances and the increase in pressure means that more hospital beds are required for ED patients. Without urgent action – reviewing capacity, resources and staffing in EDs – it is possible that there could be competition for beds between Emergency Departments and elective care.

“We welcome the new Minister for Health and Social Services, Baroness Morgan of Elyand we look forward to working closely with her and supporting her in her new role. We urge the Minister to make the urgent and emergency care system a priority, as pressures in emergency care could seriously impact the essential efforts to tackle the backlog of elective care. There must be a holistic approach that recognises this connection and recognises that without sufficient beds, resources and staff in the emergency care system, the overall health service and its recovery may struggle.

“Winter is not far off and we must ensure Emergency Departments will be able to cope with potentially high levels of demand. Attendances are likely to continue to rise, and we must prevent departments becoming crowded in order to prevent the elective care recovery being derailed.

“The College has published Summer to Recover: Briefing for Senedd Wales and we urge the Minister to read our recommendations and guidance. We know winter is likely to be a major challenge, especially as the NHS in Wales tackles the backlog of elective care and attempts to recover. But the scale of the challenge must be met with active preparations now to sufficiently equip our Emergency Departments and the urgent and emergency care system to deal with any surge in attendances and pressures.”


Notes to Editor

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