A&E units face ‘crisis’ with pressures all year round
HOSPITAL accident and emergency departments in Wales are facing a “deeply worrying crisis”, with pressures being experienced all year round rather than just in winter, it is claimed.
New Welsh Government statistics which looked at the state of Welsh A&Es found that there were 1,003,710 attendances to A&E departments in 201617 – an average of 2,750 a day and three a day more than in 2015-16.
Some 81.9% of patients spent less than four hours in these units from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge, missing the target of 95%.
And at the other end of the scale, the report found that 33,834 patients spent longer than 12 hours in A&E departments in 201617 – 5,818 (21%) more than the previous year.
It was also 22,332 more than when the figures were first recorded in 2013-14.
The report revealed there were more attendances to casualty in the summer months, with the most daily attendances in May 2016 (2,917) and the least in December 2016 (2,521).
But it is claimed that staff are still more stretched in the winter months due to the amount of frail and elderly patients who are admitted with multiple illnesses and conditions.
Shadow Health Minister Angela Burns predicted that the figures for 2017-18 are likely to be even worse.
She said: “This is no longer about winter pressures or seasonal difficulties – Welsh A&E units are now experiencing a protracted and deeply worrying crisis.
“This report suggests that more patients than ever are now spending more than 12 hours in A&E, and it’s hard to find anyone who thinks that the picture for 2017-18 won’t be even worse.
“Labour ministers, working with NHS chiefs, need to show much more innovative thinking in how it tackles the crisis affecting our emergency services, and this begins with reviewing its risk management procedures.
“Surely opening an extra bed on a ward is less risky than leaving a desperately ill patient to languish in A&E for 12 hours.”
The health board with the highest total attendances in 2016-17 was Betsi Cadwaladr, while the health board with the highest daily rate of attendances compared to their population was Cwm Taf.
The Welsh Government says the vast majority of patients are continuing to receive timely, professional care.
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said: “None of the challenges we face are unique to Wales – the difference is in our approach to meeting those challenges. We provided an additional £10m to NHS Wales in January 2018 in recognition of the exceptional level of demand for health services.
“A further £10m was provided in February to local authorities to enable people to remain in their homes or return from hospital to their community more quickly.
“Despite sustained cuts to our funding by the UK Government, our invest- ment in the Welsh NHS has never been higher, with spend per person increasing faster here in 2016-17 than in the rest of the UK.”
He added: “We have also invested at record levels in the NHS workforce. We recently announced a £100m fund to transform the way health and social services are delivered in Wales to ensure the NHS is fit for the future.”