The importance of meaningful and transparent data in improving patient safety and care cannot be understated.
This accountability allows us to see how the NHS is performing, ensuring that patients are getting the care they deserve.
Last week we saw the shocking and deeply concerning revelation from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine that the Welsh Government has not been accurately reporting headline department performance data for more than a decade in Wales.
These “breach exemptions” are situations where the clock is stopped on a patients wait in A&E if certain criteria are met where the clinician decides that the safest place for a patient is the emergency department. This means that they are not included in the official figures.Concerningly Wales is the only nation in the United Kingdom to record data in this way.
This is not just so different parties can make different political points. Comparing data between different nations in the United Kingdom allows us to better inform decision making, allowing us to learn from each other and work together.
Between January 2012 and June 2023, more than 670,000 patients were not included in the Welsh Government’s published figures. To put this into context, this is 23% of the total number of patients recorded.
Doctors themselves have warned that this practice is masking underling issues in our NHS, preventing us from getting the full pictures of the pressures facing our frontline staff and patients.It is concerning that 10.4% of all A&E attendances at Aneurin Bevan Health Board were removed between April 2019 and June 2023, and 21.6% of four-hour waits were removed over the same time.
This severely prevents us from being able to fully assess the performance of our health board.This is not the doing of the health board, it is the decision of the Welsh Government.
True leadership is about accountability and the ability to take responsibility for your shortcomings, it is not about publishing figures that suit a certain narrative.
I sincerely hope that Labour Ministers listen to our calls and drastically improve their data gathering to accurately report the state of our A&E waiting times.
We need to see the routine publication of pre-exemption figures for Welsh emergency departments to ensure we better understand performances and better inform decision making.