The Welsh Ambulance Service met its target for the most serious “red” patients, and improvements were made against the national four-hour target for emergency departments in January, the latest performance figures* for NHS Wales in December/January show.
The number of delayed transfers of care also fell for the second month in a row.
But the number of patients spending more than 12 hours in A&E was the highest on record.
The overall average number of daily calls to the ambulance service and the average daily number of the most serious calls (“red”) fell in January 2020. The percentage of “red” calls receiving a response within eight minutes increased and was above the 65% target for the first time since October 2019.
The number of patients waiting longer than the target time increased for diagnostic tests but fell for therapy services in December 2019. Average waiting times for both diagnostic tests and therapy services increased.
Referral to treatment times fell. The percentage of patients waiting less than 26 weeks decreased (the lowest since December 2015) but the number waiting longer than 36 weeks increased (the highest since January 2016). The average time waiting for treatment increased from last month.
Over the year to December 2019, the number of patients newly diagnosed with cancer who started treatment via the urgent route has increased. But the number starting treatment not classified as urgent fell.
Although the target was missed for both these routes, the percentage of patients treated within the target time has increased for both routes since the previous month.
A Welsh government spokesperson said the improvements “have been made in the face of extreme pressure. Last month was the second busiest January ever for our emergency departments.”
But the spokesperson added: “We acknowledge that too many people are spending long periods in emergency departments while waiting for a hospital bed, and expect the extra £40m we made available this winter to make improvements in this area.
“Waiting times for scheduled care are being severely affected by doctors reducing hours because of changes to HMRC pension tax rules by the UK government. By the end of December, this had led to about 3,200 sessions lost, affecting nearly 27,000 patients. The health minister has called on the UK government to resolve this matter urgently.”
Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said: “One of the key aspects in reducing waiting times and freeing up space at our emergency departments is tackling the issue of delayed transfers of care and to see an overall decrease in this area is particularly encouraging.
“Similarly, we have seen the Welsh Ambulance Service meet its target for the most serious calls this month. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind those working on the frontline in health and social care are showing extraordinary resilience and determination to give everyone the highest standard of care they can.
“However, we are still seeing record numbers of people spending more than 12 hours in A&E, which is disappointing, but also points to many people coming to our hospitals with complex needs.”
Wales was at the start of a journey to transform services, focusing on early intervention, prevention and integrated care, he said. “This is the right path to take, but we need to deliver this change faster for the benefit of everyone in Wales.”
*NHS Performance & Activity Summary December 2019/January 2020. Welsh government, 20 February 2020.