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A&E waiting time targets face axe


The government has pledged to scrap the four-hour waiting time target at accident and emergency departments.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the targets would be “abolished” under wider plans to rid the health service of any targets that have “no clinical justification”.

Mr Lansley said focus must be shifted to achieving the “best possible results for patients” rather than simply treating patients quickly in a bid to meet waiting time targets.

Mr Lansley made the comments in the House of Commons, where he also announced a full public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

Mr Lansley said: “I’m going to abolish the four-hour A&E target.

“We are going to look, and we will look constructively, at how we can scrap the four-hour target as it currently exists and work on the basis of what the clinical evidence makes clear directly contributes to delivering the best possible results for patients.

“I will issue guidance to the NHS shortly, the purpose of which - to amend the A&E target alongside others - is in order to ensure that we deliver better quality.”

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham immediately put Mr Lansley’s plans under scrutiny, saying the government “urgently needs to give clarity to the NHS by explaining what alternative plans he has to stop waiting times rising again”.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said Mr Lansley had always been clear that in order to deliver continuous improvements in patient care, “targets that have no clinical justification will be scrapped”.

She added: “Some more details will be set out in a revised operating framework shortly.”


Readers' comments (39)

  • Martin Gray

    HOORAY! If waiting times increase it will only be because patients are being properly prioritised; if those will minor injuries or illness do attend, quite often inappropriately anyway, then they will have to wait longer if more urgent cases present.

    This, of course, will cause some dissatisfaction in the patients and tempers will fray occassionaly but I'm sure that, provided the patients are told WHY they are having to wait and may appear to being queue-jumped a lot of this misguided anger will be averted.

    However, it is also a problem with bed availability that causes problems in A&E so this also needs to be addressed. Rather difficult if Trusts are going to be penalised if they discharge patients too soon and re-admission is necessary.

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  • Phil Dup

    I agree Martin - I'm furious that we have to pull out all the stops to see and treat a code blue "sore fingernail for the last 4 weeks" but who cant get to the GP or the local walk in centre (open 12 hours a day 7 days a week).
    By wasting time putting medical and nursing resources into making sure this type of patient doesnt "breach" making the Trust statistics look 'bad' we are taking away extra care that could be put into treating the truly ill.

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  • I think that every one should pay for there own health care of some sort, unless it is a real emergency for example trauma and this will stop the likes of the drunks and minor injuries and regulars attending a and e and will cut back costs

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  • Hooray, hopefully that will relieve some of the pressure wards are facing day in and day out which lead them to discharge patients who the nursing staff know full well are not ready to be discharged. No more hearing that saying 'there's a breach in A+E'. A four hour limit does NOT have clinical justification, it can take longer than that to properly assess a patient.

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  • Big Mistake. 4 Hour targets have little to with what happens in A&E. They provide a focus to moving patients to the most appropriate environment within the whole hospital, and discharging them more quickly when they used to languish for weeks while social services saved their budgets for duvet days and team building in the lakes. A measure of their success is the increasing numbers of presentations at A&E departments - we are taking patients from general practice. How we solve that is by calling the G.P. and making an apointment for the patient. Any remember patients lying on trolleys for days?

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  • About bloody time!!!!

    It should be up to Clinical judgement how and where people are seen and sent to in A&E, not pathetic targets set by government.

    I totally agree with Martin too, other problems such as bed space needs to be addressed (impossible if the ridiculous notions of the Darzi report cutting beds in new hospitals comes into force) as does new policies such as penalising hospitals for readmissions (another ridiculous idea).

    And I am sorry for those patients who may have to wait longer because of this, but they must be told at the end of the day that it is accident & EMERGENCY, and sometimes we have to prioritise an RTA or a stabbing over a stubbed toe. Now at least they have walk in centres and other avenues for treatment of minor things which should ease that burden, more education is frankly needed here to tell people about the range of services Nurses give.

    And I still advocate a fining system for those who abuse the system too, the fines (perhaps on a sliding scale) should be dished out totally at clinical judgement to those who blatantly abuse A&E.

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  • At last, I work in an MAU and am sick of seeing patients inapropiatly discharged or transfered to innapropriate wards just to satisfy a government target which exists purely to provide seemingly voter friendly statistics and not for any clinical reason.
    perhaps if readmission and failed discharges were trumpeted as loud then the public would see how they have been conned for so long. I have no love for any polititians but maybe, just maybe , this lot could be actually trying to provide a meanigfull Health Service for the country.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Jun-2010 11:03 pm, hear hear anonymous, the government will never be perfect, but I really believe the conservatives will do a lot of good for this country and the NHS

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  • About time. I agree with certain targets in A/E but as so many people have said the 'sore finger who can't be bothered to see own gp' so often gets seen before the cat 2 chest pain just because of waiting times.

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  • thank goodness, just last night i had an acute pancreatitis put on to my orthopaedic ward,the poor lady was very unwell and would've been safer in resus. meanwhile the acute fractured tibia admitted just after her was sent to the stroke unit,because the sick lady had taken up the last ortho's all wrong.

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