CONCERNS have been raised over waiting times in North Wales A&E departments after a terminal patient was forced to wait almost 24 hours to be seen.

Sam Rowlands, Member of the Welsh Parliament for North Wales has called for more to be done to tackle excessive waiting times in A&E departments.

The Shadow Minister for Health's comments came after he was contacted by a patient with terminal cancer who was forced to wait almost 24 hours to be seen at the Maelor Hospital in Wrexham.

The patient attended with a note from their GP asking to secure a bed, but the letter was rejected and the patient then waited for 11 hours in A&E before being sent home at midnight. 

Rhyl Journal: Sam Rowlands at the Maelor HospitalSam Rowlands at the Maelor Hospital (Image: Welsh Parliament)

They returned the next day and were waiting for a similar length of time.  

Mr Rowlands said: “Just last week, a member of the public, who, sadly, has terminal cancer, wrote to me to express their experiences at a North Wales hospital, where they attended A&E with a letter from his GP to secure a bed on a ward to counter an ailment.

“But the hospital refused this and put them in the A&E waiting room, where they waited for 11 hours. By midnight, they were told they were better to go home. So, they came back in the next day and had a very similar experience, with people waiting more than 12 hours.

“Sadly, this isn't a one-off occasion, and there are far too many people having these experiences in our A&E waiting rooms.”

On Monday (May 6) Betsi Cadwaladr issued an alert' for their A&E departments, amid the extreme pressures being faced. 

In the Senedd, Mr Rowlands asked Health Minister, Eluned Morgan: "For the sake of our doctors and nurses, who are having to work through this, and certainly for the patients, who are having to experience these conditions, could you outline what plan you have to tackle these excessive A&E waits."

Rhyl Journal: Eluned MorganEluned Morgan

The Minister said new initiatives were being introduced to tackle the problems and she had spoken to BCUHB about some of the really difficult issues they were facing in particular areas.

Mr Rowlands added: “I appreciate that there are challenges, in terms of discharges from hospital and I'm certainly willing to work with the Minister her to see what approaches can be put together to see that improve.

“Because we all want to see a better A&E system here in Wales and those waiting lists and waiting times reduced”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are investing in extra same day emergency care capacity and continuing to integrate health and social care services to help improve patient flow through hospitals and tackle ambulance handover delays. 

“We are providing additional funding and support to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board this year to improve outcomes for people who need to access emergency care. This includes an extra £2.7m for same day emergency care services and an extra £32.7m for the Regional Partnership Board to help manage more people in the community, and support timely discharge home from hospital.

"We will continue to support Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and all its dedicated NHS staff as it works to improve care and services for people across North Wales."

In response, Dr Jim McGuigan, BCUHB’s deputy executive medical director, said: “We sincerely apologise for the long waits some patients face within our Emergency Departments. However, I would like to assure the public we treat patients in order of clinical need, not by order of how long they have been waiting. This means we treat the sickest at any given moment and we continually reassess clinical need as more patients arrive.

“The delays within our EDs are symptomatic of two things, in the main. Firstly, we are seeing far more people arriving with higher acuity, despite primary care seeing increasing numbers of patients. This means we are seeing more people with more serious conditions since the Covid pandemic.

“Secondly, we continue to have significant issues with safely discharging people who we consider to be medically fit to leave our hospitals. This means we often do not have enough free beds within the main hospital to allow us to move those patients who need one, out of ED. This adds to the pressure on ED staff and contributes to why you will often see patients waiting in corridors or cubicles at busy times.

“There are a number of complex factors which cause these delayed discharges. One of them is a lack of resource and capacity within the social care sector. We are continually looking at ways to help alleviate capacity issues, along with our local authority partners, the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust and the third sector, so we can reduce waiting times and free up ambulances to work within our communities.

“Primary care and the community nursing teams do vital work with local authorities and private care providers so patients can leave hospital safely. Community teams also provide some of that interim care so hospitals can discharge patients who are medically fit.

“We face complex issues in our hospitals and our communities and ED is a symptom of the pressures we face, not the cause.

“We regularly communicate with local representatives regarding both ED and general hospital pressures and we always welcome any constructive dialogue which would assist us in reducing them.”