The time patients wait for pain relief is one of the clinical indicators likely to replace the four hour accident and emergency target, Nursing Times has learnt.
Other measures, including overall patient satisfaction, timely delivery of antibiotics and the time to provide CT scans are also likely to be included on a “dashboard” of outcome measures being introduced to A&E units next year.
Meanwhile, the target for 98 per cent of A&E patients to wait for fewer than four hours will be relaxed to 95 per cent for the rest of 2010-11, to help nurses focus on clinical priorities.
The clinical indicators are being drawn up by the Department of Health’s national clinical director for urgent and emergency care Professor Matthew Cooke, alongside bodies such as the RCN, the College of Emergency Medicine and the Faculty of Emergency Nursing.
RCN acute and emergency care adviser Alan Dobson said the four hour target had succeeded dramatically in cutting waiting times but the relaxation to 95 per cent would allow nurses and other clinical staff to focus on clinical priorities.
He said: “Ninety eight per cent was excessive and one of the unintended consequences was that there was a lot of pressure on nurses, such as not to report breaches”.
The revised operating framework for 2010-11, published by the DH last week, says the indicators will be piloted this year “with a view to them being fully embedded from 2011-12”.
Faculty of Emergency Nursing president Phil Downing said he was a “little concerned” that the four hour target had been relaxed before the new clinical measurements had been put in place.
College of Emergency Medicine vice president Don MacKechnie said there was likely to be a time element remaining for some of the clinical indicators.
He said: “What we do not want to see is that once decisions are made to admit patients, they spend too long lying on a bed in the A&E department.
“The four hour target has achieved a lot and we don’t want to go back to the days of patients waiting hours and hours for treatment.”