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First Minister likened to ‘Nero fiddling as Rome burned’ as new NHS performance stats are published

19 May 2022 6 minute read
Ambulances Image Nation Cymru

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS has described the latest NHS Wales performance statistics as “devastating” and likened the First Minister to “Nero fiddling as Rome burned”.

The data released today confirmed that in April the NHS experienced its third worst-ever month for A&E waiting times and ambulance waiting times, while NHS treatment lists increased for the 23rd month in a row.

Latest NHS data for March showed the highest ever number of patients waiting for treatment with over 700,000 on patient pathways – an increase of nearly 10,000 in one month – leaving 1-in-5 Welsh people on the waiting list.

The number of people waiting over two years is now over 70,000, more than trebling since August 2021. The median waiting time for that same month in Wales was 23 weeks compared to 12 in England, while 1-in-4 Welsh patients wait over a year for treatment, only 1-in-20 do so in England.

Additional figures showed over a third (34%) of patients had to wait over the four-hour target to be seen in A&E last month – the third worst figure for the Welsh NHS on record.


“Last week, the Labour Government released its plans to spend millions of taxpayer money on more politicians for Cardiff Bay,” Mr George said.

“Labour is so self-absorbed that they prioritise shoring up their own fiefdoms before fixing the NHS and ensuring the hundreds of thousands of people languishing in pain on an NHS waiting list are treated promptly, people who put healthcare before the constitution.

“After reading another month of devastating news on NHS performance – where the treatment list exploded by 10,000 in one month – no one will think this is a wise use of governmental time. All the while, the Health Minister reneges on her promise to make NHS leadership more independent of her ineffectual government.

“Let there be no doubt of the scale of the crisis the NHS finds itself in while Labour spend time and energy pursing objectives totally opposite to the people’s priorities. Mark Drakeford is Nero fiddling as Rome burned. Labour need to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.”

The Newly released statistics also revealed that:

  • Betsi Cadwaladr health board was the worst performing area in the nation against the four-hour A&E target, seeing only 56% in four hours
  • 65% and 32% of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd’s emergency patients had to wait over four and 12 hours, respectively, making it the worst performing site in Wales
  • Over 10,000 patients waited over 12 hours in Welsh hospitals, more than double the number the same time last year
  • Those aged over 85 spent an average of eight hours and 10 minutes to be seen in A&E, the second longest on record.

When it came to ambulance performance in April, only 51% of responses to immediately life-threatening calls arrived within eight minutes, down from 61% in April 2021. The target of 65% of red calls reaching their patient within eight minutes has not been reached in over 18 months.

Two-thirds of amber call patients – which include strokes – took over an hour to reach, with only 18% arriving within 30 minutes.

The slowest ambulances were in the Hywel Dda health board area with only 39% arriving within the eight-minute target of a red-call and only 59% coming to the scene within an hour of an amber case in Powys.


Responding to the figures published today, A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “As the health service continues to recover from the pandemic, and more people are coming forward with health concerns, we have seen the highest number of referrals for a first outpatient appointment since January 2020, with just over 115,000 referrals made in March.

“This increase in referrals helps to explain why the total waiting lists size increased by 1.4% on the previous month. It should be noted that activity levels for treatment and outpatients are  at their highest level since the start of the pandemic.

“The number of outpatients appointments in March, was the highest since January 2020 (255,384). On top of this the numbers of inpatient and day case treatments, were the highest since the start of the pandemic.”

“The number of patient pathways closed in March, that is people who have started or no longer require treatment, was the highest since the start of the pandemic, 1.7% more per day on average than in February.

“While the total numbers waiting for diagnostic tests continues to increase, the numbers waiting over the 8 weeks target decreased for the second month in a row to their lowest level since April 2021 and by 4.9% compared to February 2022.

“March also saw the highest level of activity in cancer services since December 2020. There was a 12.4% increase in the number of people starting their first treatment following a new cancer diagnosis, compared to the previous month. 12,643 pathways were closed following patients being informed they did not have cancer, an increase of 11.1% on February 2022.”

111 data

“This month sees the first publication of 111 data since the service was rolled out across Wales. In April almost 86,000 calls were made to the 111 service, an average of 2,863 calls per day.  The service is run by the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust and can be accessed online at or by telephone by calling 111, will give people up-to-date health advice and guidance on which NHS service is right for them.

“999 emergency ambulance and emergency department staff and services remain under considerable pressure and performance is not where we want it to be. Our Six Goals for urgent and emergency care programme has been launched to support improvements in outcomes and experience by helping staff to deliver the right care, in the right place, first time whenever possible.

“There was a decrease in average daily attendances to emergency departments in April, and a slight improvement in performance against the targets. The number of life threating ‘red’ calls remains high, increasing by 36% when compared to the same month in 2021. There is a live national delivery plan in place to support continuous improvement, including in support of tackling ambulance patient handover delays.

“It is important to note that during March nearly 400,000 patient consultations were seen by the NHS in Wales for emergency or elective treatment.”

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Cathy Hill
Cathy Hill
1 year ago

Okie dokie, I’m going to pretend I am a very generous person and so I have no doubt that this Welsh Conservative will now go on to petition the Westminster government for more funding for Cymru, under the express condition that it is spent on the NHS in Cymru.

Cymro Cymraeg
Cymro Cymraeg
1 year ago

The Minister for the Health Service should truly hang her head in shame………completely incompetent, she’d probably make a good ambulance driver – nothing else!

1 year ago

Shadow Health minister is the right name for whoever this anonymous Tory is. Sniping from the shadows. I’m not saying Labour shouldn’t have done better, but I think we all know that the Tories definitely wouldn’t do better

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