NHS winter tracker: what is A&E and ambulance waiting time at my Health Board, where is worst in Wales?

Amid what is expected to be a difficult winter for the NHS, this tracker charts the performance of key areas in Wales from ambulance response times to cancer treatment delays.

Our NHS Wales tracker will be updated with the latest data throughout the 2022/23 winter to track pressure on the health service (Image: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)Our NHS Wales tracker will be updated with the latest data throughout the 2022/23 winter to track pressure on the health service (Image: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)
Our NHS Wales tracker will be updated with the latest data throughout the 2022/23 winter to track pressure on the health service (Image: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)

This NHS tracker looked at performance over the past winter and is no longer being updated.

The NHS is under immense strain across the UK heading into winter 2022 – and Wales is no exception.

Waiting lists for routine hospital treatments have grown to enormous lengths in UK nations, while concerns have been mounting about the time beleaguered ambulance services are taking to respond to urgent calls. Seasonal flu has returned with a vengeance this year following two winters in which Covid dominated, piling pressure on the health service in what some health officials have dubbed a “tripledemic” of flu, Covid, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

From ambulance response times to waits for cancer care, this dashboard will be tracking performance in the Welsh NHS across key areas and will be kept updated with the latest data right throughout the 2022/23 winter.

Our first table will show what the current situation is at a glance. You can then explore in more detail through a series of charts taking you through the nationwide performance across ambulance response times, cancer waits, treatment backlogs and emergency department waits. Lastly, you will find interactive tables that will allow you to look up the situation at your local health board so you can see how your area compares against the national picture.

All the figures have been sourced from StatsWales. For a similar look at how the NHS is faring in other home nations, visit our trackers for England and Scotland. Northern Ireland does not produce up-to-date data about the performance of its health service.

A&E waiting times in Wales

Patients attending emergency departments in Wales should wait less than four hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged. The official target is for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours.

The target has never been met however. In December only 63.1% of people were seen within four hours. That was a deterioration from  67.3% in November and the worst monthly figure since records began in January 2015.

Hospital waiting lists in Wales

Like elsewhere across the UK, Wales has experienced a spiralling treatment backlog since the start of the Covid pandemic – although waiting lists were rising for much of 2019, too. As of November, there were almost three-quarters of a million patients (748,271) waiting for hospital treatment following a referral by a GP or other clinician. This was a slight improvement (a 0.7% reduction) on the 753,293 recorded in October however – the second consecutive reduction following 29 months of increases.

This is not necessarily a count of people, as some people could be on more than one waiting list. Treatment could include being admitted for elective surgery, starting treatment as an outpatient, for instance for physiotherapy, or getting a medical device fitted.

The target is for no more than 5% of patients to have to wait 26 weeks or over (six months) and for no patient to have to wait more than 36 weeks. But in November, 44% of patients waited 26 weeks or over, and 33.8% more than 36 weeks – again, a slight improvement over October’s figures, which were 44.4% and 34.5%. In February 2020, before the pandemic, the figures were 15.7% and 5.6% respectively. This target has also never been met. In November, the average (median) wait was 21.2 weeks, a slight improvement on September’s figure of 21.6 weeks.

Ambulance response times in Wales

The most urgent ambulance callouts in Wales are known as red calls. This is where there is an immediate threat to life, such as a cardiac arrest. The target is for 65% of these calls to have a response time within 8 minutes.

Not a single local health board met the target in December. Across Wales, only 39.5% of red calls saw an ambulance arrive within eight minutes. The average (mean) response time in December was 12 minutes 11 seconds – a big increase on November, when it was 10 minutes 9 seconds. A year ago, patients waited an average of 9 minutes 32 seconds.

Cancer waiting times in Wales

Wales introduced a new universal target for all cancer patients in 2019, with the aim that all patients would start treatment within 62 days from the point it was suspected that they had the disease – for instance through an urgent GP referral, or through a bowel, cervical or breast cancer screening programme. The 62-day standard should be met in at least 75% of cases.

Again, this target has never been met. As of November, only 53.9% of the 1,749 patients who started treatment had waited less than this, meaning 807 people had to wait longer than two months for their first treatment. This was an improvement of 1.7 percentage points on October, when 52.2% started treatment within 62 days, but was still one of the worst performances on record.

The local picture in Wales

While all four targets have been missed across Wales as a whole, some local health boards are doing worse than others.

For A&E waits, between 57.5% and 99.9% of patients were seen within the four-hour target window (the official target is for this to be achieved for at least 95% of patients). Look up the performance of your local health board in the table below.

For hospital treatment waiting times, the median waiting time varied from 6.1 weeks to 28 weeks, while the proportion of patients seen within 26 weeks ranged from 47.6% to 94.6% (the target is 95%, so no health board met this). Look up the performance of your local health board in the table below.

Likewise every health board missed the target for ambulance red call response times in December, which is for them to arrive on the scene within 8 minutes at least 65% of the time. Performance ranged from 34.8% to 45.3%. Look up the performance of your local ambulance service in the table below.

When it comes to cancer waiting times, 59.7% of patients started treatment within 62 days at the best performing health board, compared to 47.7% at the worst performing. The target is 75%, so all areas were a long way off where they should be. Look up the performance of your local health board in the table below.