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A&E waiting times in Wales figures miss thousands of hours

20 October 2023

Accident and Emergency Entrance to Morriston Hospital, Swansea. Photo jax10289 via Shutterstock. 

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has forced the Welsh Government to admit that it has been misrepresenting the extent of waiting times in Accident & Emergency departments for years.

Data obtained by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveals that A&E waiting times have been missing thousands of hours from official monthly figures.

The discrepancy is caused by a policy from 2011 issued by the Welsh Government, which allows for patients whose waits will exceed the four-hour target to be excluded from the data if they are expected to complete their treatment within A&E. This is known as “breach exemptions” and the Welsh Government created these claiming that other parts of Britain did the same.


The RCEM Vice President for Wales said: “We have long been campaigning for transparency in the reporting of the waiting time situation in Wales.”

He went on to say that they had been raising the issue with the Welsh Government for years, but it has fallen on deaf ears.

The Welsh Government has repeatedly claimed that A&E waiting times in Wales have “bettered English performance” including as recently as the week before its admission. But once the missing data is taken into account, the performance in Wales is worse.

Breach exemptions

The FOI data revealed that 38.7 per cent of patients in Wales waited longer than four hours in A&E departments. When breach exemptions were included, the figure rose to 50 per cent.

RCEM contacted the Office for National Statistics which confirmed it is currently looking into the differences between the way all parts of Britain record A&E waiting time data, and that Wales is the only one which uses “breach” exemptions.