Latest NHS Wales performance data

I’m pleased to see in today’s data that we have made some headway in planned care. In February the number of patient pathways waiting to start treatment fell from around 734,000 to 731,000, a fifth consecutive decrease, while waiting lists continue to rise in England. 574,000 individual patients are currently on treatment waiting lists in Wales, a fall of 1,700 patients. The number of patient pathways waiting longer than one year for a first outpatient appointment decreased to around 63,000, a reduction of 39% from its peak last August.

The number of patient pathways waiting longer than 36 weeks fell to just over 237,600, the lowest since June 2021. About 37,500 pathways were waiting more than two years, 47% lower than the peak in March 2022. I expect to see these positive trends continue, as actions including our investment in extra community beds to improve patient flow through hospitals bear fruit.

I’m also pleased that 12,724 patients in Wales were informed they did not have cancer in February. There was an improved performance for people starting treatment within 62 days to 52.5%, compared to 50.1% the previous month. However this is still short of our 75% target and at a national summit of cancer service leaders last month we agreed the need for further focused effort to continue to improve the number of people starting treatment within 62 days.

These improvements must be seen within a wider a context where, as today’s data shows, the pressures we have seen on our NHS have still not eased.

Emergency care services have borne the brunt of the recent pressures, with an increase in ambulance call volumes and presentations at emergency departments. Performance at major emergency departments in Wales has bettered English performance for the last seven months and has remained stable in contrast to all other parts of the UK.

The volume of ‘immediately life threatened’ patients accessing the ambulance service remains very high in a historical context, 93% higher in March 2023 than in March 2019, and emergency admissions increased by 18% when compared with the same month last year. These are indicators of an increase in the numbers of very sick and frail adults accessing emergency care.

Regarding ambulance response times, while there were improvements against the four and twelve hour targets compared to March 2022, response times for the most urgent calls continue to be a major challenge and we expect to see improvements in ambulance patient handover in the coming months to enable better performance.

We have set very ambitious targets for our NHS and we have seen improvements in several areas, as our NHS continues to meet the increased demand for care following the pandemic. It is clear there is more to do in some areas, and I will expect to see progress following the improvements made and our additional investment.