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20.03.19

NHS chiefs accuse NHSE of scrapping flagship targets because it can no longer meet them

Plans to scrap the flagship four-hour A&E targets have been criticised by NHS chiefs, with some accusing NHS England of trying to abandon key targets because they can no longer meet them.

The NHS unveiled plans to overhaul its four-hour A&E target and trial new “rapid care measures” last week, treating the most urgent cases quicker and introducing an average time for treatment instead of a four-hour target.

NHS chief executives have spoken out against the plans, with one stating: “There was a lot of work done to provide the evidence basis for four hours… We are getting rid of it because it can’t be met anymore.”

Another trust chief executive, speaking anonymously to the Telegraph, said the overhaul would waste more resources trying to “count something to keep the ministers happy.”

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers chief executive, has said that targets have played a vital role in ensuring safe and high-quality care for patients and reducing delays, and that’s why “targets matter to trusts.”

She stated: “It would be wrong to make changes simply because the service is struggling to deliver existing targets.”

The four-hour target has not been met since July 2015, and for the past two months the NHS has reported its worst-ever performance figures.

The “overwhelmed” health service only saw 84.2% of A&E visits seen within the four-hour waiting time target – making February the “toughest month to date” for the NHS.

Concerns have also been raised over NHS England, with claims that the organisation failed to properly consult with professional bodies and clinicians and had a “pre-determined” plan to axe the target.

Cordery commented: “It’s right to look at whether the targets we have are clinically relevant and work in the best interests of patients and service users, treating those most unwell most quickly while ensuring everyone has access to timely care

“But we need to ensure if we change them, we’re doing it for the right reasons, backed by a clear clinical consensus based on strong evidence.”

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine also expressed alarm at the plans, which could mean most patients have no official deadline for treatment and lead to millions having to wait longer.

The new rapid care measures including changes to A&E, cancer and operation targets, are due to be piloted across 12 trusts before being rolled out nationally.

Image credit - Chris Radburn/PA Wire/PA Images

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