A&E hospital targets missed again in Wales as winter looms

Glan Clwyd Hospital A&E with ambulance outside
Image caption The Welsh government's target for waiting in A&E is four hours

Accident and emergency units at Welsh hospitals have again missed their target to see patients within four hours.

Figures for October show that 90.4% of patients are seen in that time - the target is 95%.

The Welsh Conservatives described the latest statistics as "a national disgrace".

But the Welsh government said the figures represented the best results by hospitals in four years.

Figures for waiting times in accident and emergency units in Wales have been gathered since 2009.

'Unnecessary reorganisation'

Another target set by the government was that no patient should wait more than 12 hours to be assessed, admitted or discharged by emergency units.

In October, 778 people were still left waiting more than half-a-day to be treated. However, this represents a significant drop from April, when more than 2,000 patients missed the 12-hour limit.

The Welsh Conservatives' shadow health minister Darren Millar said the new figures were a cause for growing concern as the Welsh NHS gears up for the winter.

"As pressures build and demand increases, our NHS is beginning the winter way behind the starting blocks yet again," he said.

"Communities will be rightly worried and we all deserve to know how every hospital is preparing for winter - that's why we have consistently called for a 'national winter plan' to be developed by the Welsh government to help the health service deal with seasonal pressures."

"It remains a national disgrace that [First Minister] Carwyn Jones has failed to meet his own target in four years and his unnecessary reorganisation and downgrading will only make matters worse," added Mr Millar.

Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Elin Jones said she was also disappointed by the latest waiting times.

"While we welcome the drop in the number of patients spending longer than twelve hours in the emergency unit, I do worry that things will get worse once winter sets in and attendances at A&E inevitably increase," she said.

"The government's plans to reduce the number of emergency departments will also inevitably put more pressure on what is already an over-stretched service."

'Ready for winter'

Responding to the new waiting time figures, a spokesperson for the Welsh government praised hospitals for recovering from the pressures they faced last winter.

"This is testament to the hard work of staff," said the spokesperson.

"In April, 85.7% of patients were seen within four hours at Welsh A&E departments. The figure has been above 90% ever since, representing the best run of performance for four years.

"Added to this, fewer patients waited over 12 hours in emergency departments."

The Welsh government said that sometimes it was in the best medical interest of a patient to stay in an emergency unit for monitoring and diagnosis, rather than "having to admit patients unnecessarily to a ward bed".

The spokesperson added: "Importantly, we began to prepare for this winter when the snow was still on the ground in March and robust planning has been undertaken by NHS Wales in partnership with local authorities throughout the period since.

"As a result, NHS Wales is on a firmer footing as we approach the challenging winter period."

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