Welsh Labour’s NHS record-long treatment list balloons again – and that’s before Omicron struck
The Labour-run NHS in Wales entered the winter in a calamitous state, as the record-long treatment waiting list increased again, A&E waits were their second lowest ever, and ambulance response times remain sky-high.
Latest Welsh NHS data for November showed the highest ever number of patients waiting for treatment with 682,279 on patient pathways – over 14,000 more than September – leaving 1-in-5 Welsh people on the waiting list.
Median waiting times for that same month in Wales are nearly double that of England (22.3 weeks compared to 11.5), while 1-in-4 Welsh patients are waiting over a year for treatment, compared to only 1-in-19 in England.
The number of people waiting over two years increased has jumped over 15,000 in just two months to 42,525. The figures are likely be much worse in the near future as the postponement of elective surgery across several health abords due to the Omicron variant is yet to be counted.
Additional figures showed a third (33.5%) of patients had to wait over the four hour target to be seen in A&E last month, worse than England and Scotland (26.7% and 33%, respectively). This is the second worst month for the Welsh NHS on record. The target to get 95% admittances seen in four hours has never been met in its 12-year existence.
Statistics also revealed that:
- Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, which covers North Wales, was the worst performing in the nation against the four-hour A&E target, seeing only 61% in four hours;
- Wrexham Maelor Hospital saw fewer than half its patients (43.4%) in four hours, making it the worst performing in Wales;
- 8,554 patients waited over 12 hours in Welsh hospitals; and
- Those aged over 85 spent an average of nearly eight hours to be seen in A&E.
When it came to ambulance performance in December, only 51.1% of responses to immediately life-threatening calls arrived within eight minutes. The target of 65% of red-calls reaching their patient within eight minutes has not been reached in 17 months.
The slowest ambulances were in the Hywel Dda health board area with only 42.2% arriving within the eight-minute target, but four other health boards posted a figure under 50%.
Three-in-four (76.9%) amber call patients – which include strokes – took over 30 minutes to be reached. This was most acute in Cwm Taf Morgannwg with only 16.2% of calls arriving within half an hour.
The news comes the same day the BBC reported the case of a man who waited four nights on a chair in Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales after being told to attend A&E to treat a rapidly spreading skin infection. The local health board has since “sincerely” apologised.
Sue Hill, from the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "Already in Wales we had bigger, longer waiting lists per head of population than similar places in England. Every winter I've had to cancel my elective patients because beds on my surgical ward are full of medical patients with chest infections, not Covid, but flu, pneumonia and those things”.
In November, the NHS in Wales recorded its worst ever A&E waits and slowest ever ambulance response times.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:
“Today’s figures show that there is no letting up on the pressure bearing down on the NHS. While our medical staff work around the clock, doing their best, they are still not being equipped to see patients in timely manner, despite Labour having over 20 years to do so.
“We have seen for months now overwhelmed A&E departments without the resources to deal with the influx of patient, with further consequences for ambulances reaching new patients as they cannot handover old ones to hospitals, leading to the worst A&E waits in Britain.
“While more can be done to encourage the use of community pharmacies and minor injury units, it cannot be denied that problem in accessing to GPs and previous lockdowns are still taking a toll.
“Of course, decades of NHS bed cuts and mismanagement by a Labour Government in Cardiff Bay have only exacerbated things but a reversal in this trend could be in sight if they recognise the need to live with coronavirus.
“We know that Covid is now not causing mass hospitalisations and deaths, but is harming public services – as well as private businesses – through isolation requirements, leading to staff shortages. Eventually, Labour ministers will have to exit their current tunnel vision as such restrictions do more harm than good.”