A&E Wait Still More Than 4 Hours

Hundreds of people are still waiting more than four hours to be dealt with at Gwent’s main accident and emergency departments, despite an improvement in performance during March.

The battle to regularly meet the Assembly’s target of treating at least 95 per cent of patients who attend A&E is proving long and difficult for many NHS trusts in Wales, particularly those with busy urban departments.

Steady improvements, particularly at the Royal Gwent, during the past two years had brought the monthly percentage of patients treated there inside four hours to within a couple of points of the magic 95 per cent mark by the end of 2006.

But increases in admissions during January and February saw performance drop back below 90 per cent.

There were more than 6,500 A&E attendances at the Royal Gwent in January, 300 more than last year and 550 more than two years ago, while higher than average admissions meant that in February only 84 per cent of Royal Gwent A&E patients were dealt with inside four hours.

March brought improvements but the department is still struggling to cope. Last month 9,216 people attended Gwent’s two main A&E departments, at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall. Ninety-one per cent of them were dealt with inside the target time. But 809 patients had to wait more than four hours.

Initiatives such as having out-of-hours primary care staff working alongside staff in A&E, to help ensure patients are seen more quickly at the Royal Gwent, are being tested, but it is too early to judge success.

The Royal Gwent has Wales’ busiest A&E department, but despite the difficulties it is outperforming Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales, the capital’s major A&E unit.

In March, 80 per cent of UHW’s 8,700 A&E attenders were dealt with inside four hours. One-in-five, or almost 1,700, waited longer.