1. ITV Report

Welsh NHS records worst ever A&E waiting times

A&E departments in Wales have recorded their worst ever waiting times with just 72.1% of patients seen within four hours in December.

This figure is down significantly from the year before which saw 77.8% of patients seen within the target time.

The next worse-performing hospitals are Ysbyty Glan Clwyd at 52.5% and Royal Gwent at 53%.

The target set by the Welsh Government is for 95% of patients to be seen in that time.

patients waited more than 12 hours which is a record high.

Last month there was a record high demand on the ambulance service and the highest number of attendance at emergency department for any December on record.

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced an extra £10m to help ease pressures on A&E.

There has been a welcome reduction in delayed transfers of care but too many patients are spending long periods in emergency departments waiting for a hospital bed. We want Health Boards to work with partners to improve the flow of patients through the hospital system and out into the community, and I have made an extra £10m available to support improvement in this area.

The ambulance service faced significant pressure, with average daily ‘red calls’ increasing to the highest on record and exceeding 100 for the first time. We are disappointed the target was not achieved although more patients in the red category received a response within the target time than last December.

– Vaughan Gething, Health Minister

The Welsh Ambulance Service saw their average daily red calls increase to the highest on record, a 23% rise.

Last month we witnessed record low levels of performance, both in terms of the four-hour target and the number of long waits. This should as no surprise, we have experienced year-round low performance across Emergency Departments in Wales. This is despite our

Emergency Medicine staff working tirelessly to provide excellent patient care in the face of reduced capacity in Emergency Departments.

We need to assess ongoing health and social care needs both in hospitals and in the community. Without adequate health and social care resources and the consequential effect upon the unscheduled care system this will inevitably results in Emergency Department crowding which has in turn resulted in an increase in patients waiting outside the Emergency Department.

– Dr Jo Mower, Vice President of RCEM Wales

The British Medical Association blamed the performance on a lack of resources and said there was an urgent need for more staff.

The situation is extremely frustrating for all staff, who are unable to deliver the best care to patients; as undoubtedly continuous pressure and unsafe working conditions impact negatively on their own health, and therefore their performance. This cannot go on.

We need to see an increase in bed capacity, along with more investment into social care. Social care and community services must be able to take patients to free up beds in hospitals, seven days a week.

“More staff are needed urgently in hospitals and in GP practices to cope with the demand, with recruitment and retention set as a continued priority.

Ambulance offloading must continue to be a priority, with red and amber calls being serviced appropriately, and plans that help remodel pathways of care need to be rolled out more widely.

– Dr David Bailey, Chair BMA Welsh Council
Credit: PA

Behind today's A&E figures showing record low performance against the targets, is an army of staff.

They work tirelessly, at all hours, to make sure those who need medical care are treated as quickly and effectively as possible.

But it's clearly very tough.

Here are the thoughts of one senior A&E doctor on what it's like on the frontline this winter.

I started by asking them about the four hour treatment target - and how some hospitals are managing to see only just over 50% in that time, as opposed to the 95% they should be.

"That's a good relative terms!" they said. "There is that feeling of [them being] bad. It's not unusual. [It's] normal now. We are numb by it. [We] just get on with the work and try to do the best and safest we can."

On the subject of staff moral, they added it's "very low but credit to the staff they work hard to make it as comfortable and possible for patients."

I asked about the impact on safety. They said it "still continues to be unsafe for patients, relatives and staff. We have many serious critical incidences as well as near misses."