May 10, 2023


Treatment of cancer patients which had been the worst on record has seen some improvements. However, waiting times in emergency departments are worsening while ambulance response times are the second worst ever. In March, only 47.5% of immediately life-threatening "red" calls were responded to within eight minutes, falling short of the target of 65% for the 32nd consecutive month.

At eight minutes 24 seconds, the average response time to “red” calls for the month of March 2023 was 30 seconds slower than in February 2023 and 34 seconds slower than in March 2022. Additionally, handover delays increased by 51% in the month of March from the previous month with 28,060 hours “lost” as ambulances couldn’t hand over patients to A&E units with the 15-minute target.

However, hospital waiting times after referral fell for the fifth month in a row. But there are still 731,012 "patient pathways" on the list, which is about 573,900 actual patients, when those who are on multiple waiting lists are counted. Overall, people on waiting lists for more than a year or two have decreased. In what is the lowest number for two years, over one-year waiting lists fell by almost 5,700 to 146,776.

But then, Wales has a higher proportion of long waits when compared to England where just over 5% of patients are waiting for over a year. Whereas, in Wales, it is 20.1%. Also, while there are very few patients who have been on the waiting list for two years in England, people in that category in Wales make up 5.1% of NHS Wales waiting times.

NHS Wales continues to miss its key post-pandemic recovery target that no patient should be waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment. However, for the sixth month in a row, it has made some headway but there are still 63,027 patients waiting more than a year, a monthly drop of 4,588.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said she was happy that “some headway” has been made into hospital treatment waiting times but also expected to see positive changes on the longest waits. Conservative opponents have on the other hand said it was inhuman to have more than 37,500 patients waiting for over two years for hospital treatment.

On ambulance targets, Ms Morgan added: "Response times for the most urgent calls continue to be a major challenge and we expect to see improvements in ambulance patient handover in the coming months to enable better performance."

There were more handover delays in March at both Swansea Bay and Aneurin Bevan health boards, even more than the winter peak across the rest of Wales in December.

Executive director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, Lee Brooks said despite their best efforts, they are still not where they want to be. He apologised to patients and their loved ones who have had poor experiences over the last weeks and months.

He said; "It is disheartening to see progress made during January and February dip in March."

In response, Conservative health spokesman Russell George said that while progress had been made, the people of Wales deserved better "than a 50-50 chance of an ambulance arriving on time".

He added: "Despite the fact that inhuman two year waits for treatment waits have been virtually eliminated elsewhere in Britain, there are tens of thousands of people waiting far too long in Wales.”

On the other hand, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds called for an emergency plan to deal with the crisis in social care expressing concern that “people were dying while waiting for an ambulance or in A&E because hospitals aren't able to discharge fit-again patients into social care.”

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