The Welsh NHS recorded its worst ever A&E waiting times figures last month, with just 72.1% of patients seen within four hours.
The number of people waiting less than four hours in December fell from 77.8% in the same month of 2018, and was some way off the country’s target of 95% – which is yet to be met.
The figures for December 2019, published by the Welsh Government on Thursday, also show the highest number of patients on record had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments.
The NHS performance statistics were published as Welsh health Minister Vaughan Gething announced a further £10 million will be made available to ease pressures on health and social care services.
Mr Gething said the money is in addition to £30 million he previously announced for investment in health services in response to increased winter pressures.
He said: “Last month saw record high demand on the ambulance service, the highest number of attendance at emergency departments for any December and record numbers of emergency admissions for over 75-year-olds.
“There has been a welcome reduction in delayed transfers of care but too many patients are spending long periods in emergency departments waiting for a hospital bed.
“We want health boards to work with partners to improve the flow of patients through the hospital system and out into the community, and I have made an extra £10 million available to support improvement in this area.”
Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, which represents Wales’s seven health boards, said 2019 had seen unprecedented levels of demand, and he urged the public to only use A&E in emergencies.
He said: “For the first time ever, the number of red calls to the ambulance service reached over 100 a day, and this trend emphasises the fact the NHS is dealing with more patients with much more complex needs.
“We are at the start of a journey to transform our services, focusing on early interventions, prevention and working closely with our partners, including local government.
After the latest release of NHS Wales performance stats, our Director, @WNHSC_Darren says that month after month we have seen unprecedented levels of demand on our emergency departments https://t.co/NIpDzeITlk pic.twitter.com/FBNsL4MxSl— Welsh NHS Confed #KeepWalesSafe (@WelshConfed) January 23, 2020
“This is the right path to take, but we need to deliver this change at pace and scale for the benefit of everyone in Wales.”
Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Angela Burns said the figures show “a Welsh Labour Government unable to cope with this continuing crisis, and completely unable to find a solution”.
She added: “Our hardworking NHS Wales staff are there to deliver the best care that they can, but they too are being let down by mismanagement at the top.
“It’s a credit to them that they manage to cope under such circumstances.
“This Welsh Labour administration created this crisis, and doesn’t seem that it can solve it.”