Last week NHS England published the worst set of A&E waiting times in its history. "Crisis", "record waits", "backlog hits record high" were among some of the damning headlines.

Yet equivalent figures here in Wales show that on some key measures, patients going to emergency departments for treatment are facing even longer waits than across the border.

Just like here in Wales, the target in England is for 95% of patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of their arrival at A&E.

The average for England as a whole stood at 75.2% when the figures were published last week. In comparison, only 68.7% of people attending a Welsh A&E were admitted, transferred or discharged in that time.

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The lowest figure of any NHS trust in England was recorded by the North Lincolnshire and Goole Trust where just over half (53%) of people spent less than four hours in their emergency departments. However in Wales, the trouble-hit new The Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran, run by Aneurin Bevan UHB, was able to deal with only 40.7% of people in that time.

The second worst-performing hospital in Wales was Wrexham Maelor Hospital where barely half (50.7%) of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, followed by Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil with 53.7%.

At the other end of the scale, Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth (75.7%) and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant (74.5%) were the best performers of any A&E in Wales - but they were still way off the 95% target.

In Scotland last month, 71.3% of patients were admitted, discharged or transferred four hours after arriving - also their worst level on record.

When it comes to 12-hour waits in A&E, the figures are compiled differently between England and Wales.

In Wales, the four-hour and 12-hour waits are recorded in the same way. In August, 7,982 people had to wait more than 12 hours in emergency units before being admitted, transferred or discharged - the highest number ever recorded and up from 7,084 the month before.

In England, 5,025 people had to wait more than 12 hours at A&Es in September from a decision to admit - the highest since records began in August 2010.

Dr Suresh Pillai, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Wales (RECM), said the pressures and challenges facing the health service in Wales are "mounting quickly".

"We are heading into what will likely be the most difficult winter ever with consistently deteriorating performance, high numbers of patients, burned out staff, and an ambulance service on the brink of a crisis," he said.

"Our primary concern is patient safety. Ambulances queuing outside hospitals is becoming more frequent, dangerous crowding is returning, patients are waiting for a long time to be admitted – four, eight and 12-hour stays have risen significantly.

"These practices are unacceptable and unconscionable and present a serious threat to patient safety. But there simply is not sufficient capacity to move patients through the system, through the hospital."

Dr Pillai called on health boards and the Welsh Government to expand and maximise capacity in emergency departments and throughout the system to improve flow throughout the hospital.

The figures for the month of September are set to be released by the Welsh Government on Thursday, October 21.

Commenting on the August data, a Welsh Government spokesman said: "Despite increasing pressures during unprecedented levels of demand and activity, our hardworking NHS staff continue to deliver high levels of care treating patients during a pandemic.

"Pressures on our emergency services continue to remain high. The number of attendances to all NHS Wales emergency departments and average number of emergency department attendances per day in August 2021 were slightly lower than the previous month, but were still higher than last year.

"We have made £25m funding available to improve delivery of urgent and emergency care services. There are also plans to improve the flow of patients through the hospital system and out into the community.

"We encourage people to consider the best options for care, and not necessarily head to their local emergency department. To get the right care, first time people can also use the online 111 service and their local pharmacist where appropriate."

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