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Thousands of Welsh patients still facing excess and unacceptable A&E waits

21 December 2023

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has called on the Welsh Government to take urgent action to combat winter pressures, as new data shows one out of every five people who visited an A&E last month was forced to wait more than eight hours.

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

  • 62,137 people attended major A&Es (Type 1) in November
  • Nearly one in seven (13.8%) patients were delayed by 12-hours or more at a major A&Es (equal to 8,558 patients)
  • More than one in five (22.6%) patients were delayed eight hours or more at a major emergency department (equal to 14,040 patients)
  • Overall, 59.1% of patients in major A&Es were admitted, transferred, or discharged within four hours from arrival.

This means that two in five patients waited more than four hours in major A&Es in Wales.

Dr Rob Perry, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Wales, said: “Though we have seen a slight improvement in performance compared to this time last year, patients are still waiting too long to be treated and A&E staff are still expected to work in unacceptable conditions.

“Thousands of patients in Wales are having to endure undignified, uncomfortable and ultimately dangerous excess waits – while over-stretched and burnt-out staff do their very best to care for them.

“Last month we urged the Welsh government to put a Winter Plan in place to protect patients and support staff. This did not happen. We again urge the Welsh government to produce a comprehensive plan that focuses on increasing bed numbers.

“Winter is predictably challenging, and we expect it to be met with proportional and necessary measures needed to protect patients and reduce dangerously long delays to emergency care.”

Despite the issues Dr Perry was keen to stress that anyone who does need emergency medical care over the coming week should still seek it. They will still receive the urgent care they require but should be prepared for long waits.

He also reiterated his call for everyone who is eligible – especially those who work in healthcare – to get vaccinated against flu.

The latest data has been released with the Welsh Government’s ‘Breach Exemption’ policy applied. This is despite it publishing data without the policy applied last month confirming RCEM’s analysis which revealed that the waiting times of thousands of patients were being misrepresented in data was correct.

Commenting on this Dr Perry said: “It is a positive step that the government has published these historic performance figures prior to the application of the breach exemptions policy.

“What we urgently need is for this data to be routinely published, monthly, so we have accurate, transparent and meaningful data, so no patient’s experience is misrepresented.”

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