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Cardiff and Vale best for emergency response times

THE latest performance statistics for the NHS across Wales has been released today, November 18. A number of areas are covered including ambulance response times, Emergency Department attendees and wait times and cancer treatment and diagnostic times.

Here we break down how Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has performed in October 2021.

Ambulance response times

Cardiff and Vale had the highest emergency response rates in October according to the latest Welsh Government NHS Wales Performance data.

For the health board, 644 ‘red’ calls – calls which are for immediately life-threatening incidents – were received in October, with an emergency response sent out in 639 of these cases.

Of these, 418 were at the scene to treat the patient within the Welsh Government’s eight-minute target. This was 65.4 per cent of those ‘red’ calls being attended to in the response time – making Cardiff and Vale the only health board in Wales to meet the 65 per cent target.

The health board also received 4,335 ‘amber’ – less urgent but still serious – calls and 1,122 ‘green’ calls – cases where a non-emergency response is more appropriate..

This October saw the highest number of calls for an ambulance than any other October since the May 2019 period when the data was first made available. It was also the firth month in a row where the daily ‘red’ call average was above 100 – with an average of 132 ‘red’ calls last month.

The Wales-wide statistics report that just 50 per cent of ‘red’ calls received a response time within eight minutes – the lowest since the data was first made available in May 2019. It is down 2.3 per cent on September.

Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “The pressures the NHS are currently facing, particularly in urgent and emergency care, are worrying for all. Recent figures show the impact that the enormous pressures on the NHS are having on ambulance waits outside of Emergency Departments and how this effects the experience of patients.

“It’s important to understand that this is a whole-system issue. There are many factors affecting NHS capacity; from staff absences because of Covid or suspected Covid, to more people on wards and in intensive care units needing treatment for Covid and higher demand for other conditions. The social care system is also under unprecedented pressure, meaning the NHS is unable to discharge patients from hospital and therefore has much lower capacity to treat incoming patients.

“The NHS in Wales is working relentlessly to cope with current levels of demand and staff are doing all they can to ensure everyone waiting for care is seen as soon as possible. We thank them and the public for doing all they can to support the NHS.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “The latest data shows the pressure on our health and care system continues to grow. But our hardworking health and social care staff continue to deliver high quality care when people need it.”

On the ambulance waits, the spokesperson said: “The ambulance service in Wales, like the rest of the UK, continues to be under great strain. The number of red calls, which are classed as life-threatening, in October were the highest ever on record. The number of calls in October were also 24 per cent higher than October last year.

“Earlier this year we provided an additional £25 million to go towards supporting the transformation of urgent and emergency care services to deliver the right care in the right place, first time.

“The ambulance service has also received funding for the recruitment of the equivalent of 120 staff.

“We encourage people to consider the best options for care, and not necessarily head to their local emergency department. To get the right care first time, people can also use the online 111 service and their local pharmacist where appropriate.”

Emergency Department data

The figures show 11,808 people attended the emergency department at University Hospital of Wales Cardiff in October. Of these 7,400 – or 62.7 per cent – were seen within the four hour target. This puts the health board in the middle of the Welsh statistics.

The latest data shows that there were 85,115 attendances to all NHS Wales emergency departments in October 2021. This was: 3.3 per cent lower than the previous month (2,889 fewer attendances), 31.2 per cent higher than in the same month last year (20,259 more attendances) but 6.4 per cent lower (5,780 fewer attendances) than October 2019.

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The average number of emergency department attendances per day in October 2021 was 2,746. This was: 188 fewer attendances per day on average than in the previous month, 654 more than in the same month in 2020 but 186 fewer than in October 2019.

According to Welsh Government targets, 95 per cent of patients should spend less than four hours at an emergency department.

The latest month’s data shows that 65.0 per cent of patients in all NHS emergency departments spent less than four hours in the department from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge. This was: 1.9 per cent lower than the previous month, 12.3 per cent lower than the same month in 2020, and 10.3 per cent lower than the same month in 2019. The 95 per cent target continues to be missed.

Cancer treatment times

The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is the third lowest health board in Wales for patients newly diagnosed with cancer starting their first definitive treatment within the first 62 days after diagnosis.

In total 193 patients in the health board started their first treatment in the month of September, with 188 within the first 62 days of being suspected of having cancer. The total percentage is 54.4 per cent of patients starting their first treatment within 62 days. However this, and all of the health boards in Wales, falls below the target of 75 per cent.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, on average there were just under 1,500 patients starting their first definitive treatment per month. This number fell at the start of the pandemic to a low point of 925 in May 2020 but has generally been on an upward trend since and in recent months has been in-line with or exceeded activity levels for the corresponding months in 2019.

In September 2021, 1,600 patients newly diagnosed with cancer started their first definitive treatment in the month.

This is an increase of 4.2 per cent from August 2021 and an increase of 10.6 per cent from September 2019.

The Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It is encouraging the number of patients newly diagnosed with cancer starting their first definitive treatment and the number of patients informed they did not have cancer have both increased on the previous month.

“In a boost to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the health minister today announced more than £51 million is to be invested in replacing ageing diagnostic imaging equipment across NHS Wales.

“This will significantly improve image quality, often resulting in earlier and more accurate diagnosis.

“We have invested an extra £248 million this year to transform the delivery of services and tackle waiting times, but because of the ongoing pressures and effects of the pandemic we don’t expect to see real progress before the spring.”

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