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Health secretary admits targets 'disempower' NHS staff

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Setting targets for NHS performance failed to win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of NHS staff, health secretary Andy Burnham has admitted.

Speaking to the Urban Institute think tank before a meeting with President Obama’s health taskforce, health secretary Andy Burnham said he understood why staff thought the drives signalled a lack of trust on the part of central Government.

But he also insisted that Labour had been right to introduce targets when it first came to power.

“Targets drove the system hard and were the right thing to do,” he said.

“Looking back now, I can see that the emphasis began to imply a lack of trust in staff at the frontline that became disempowering.”

Labour has been fiercely criticised for introducing what many view as an overwhelming number of targets, with patients groups suggesting the practice has caused less well-known issues to be ignored.

Mr Burnham said many of the targets would be scrapped over the coming months, but added that the 18-week operation guarantee would remain in place, as would the aim to see all patients entering A&E within four hours.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • introducing targets isn't the problem in isolation. enforcing targets on staff and departments without the necessary respources to achieve them is tantamount to institutionalised bullying and results in unhappy, exhausted staff and diminished quality of care. expecting to be seen by 4 hours in A&E isn't unreasonable unless the staffing is so low and scarce it becomes so.

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  • a target driven nhs has improved quantity and reduced quality. front line staff are driven hard and fast with clip board weilding auditors from management hounding them at every turn.I have never seen staffing levels as low, sickness rates always increasing and staff morale at an all time low. I am passionate about the nhs and have never regarded my job as work until recently. I am exhausted and tearful at best, and have extreme difficulty on a daily basis trying to keep up with clinical urgencies in the face of performance driven targets with insufficient resources to maintain safety. I am fearful for the future of this once brilliant organisation, being brought to its knees by this government.

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