In Brief

Will the government scrap A&E waiting targets?

Doctor says the suggestion would have a ‘near-catastrophic’ impact on hospitals

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has signalled that four-hour waiting targets for A&E are likely to be scrapped for the NHS in England.

Currently, hospitals must aim to ensure 95% of patients are seen within the time limit, but in November every major A&E unit in England missed the target.

As the government came under fire for the worst figures on record, the health secretary argued it would be better if targets were “clinically appropriate”.

The Daily Mail said his suggestion has “sparked anger”, with Dr Taj Hassan, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, warning that it risks having “a near-catastrophic impact on patient safety”.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “Changing the A&E target won’t magic away the problems in our overcrowded hospitals, with patients left on trolleys in corridors for hours and hours.”

Waiting time targets were first put under review by Theresa May in 2018.

As part of the review, the NHS England’s national medical director, Prof Steve Powis, suggested three new targets: using the average waiting time as the main measure; recording how long patients wait before being assessed after they arrive; and checking how long the most seriously ill patients wait before their treatment is completed.

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During Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue of growing waiting times, calling for “urgent action”.

He called on the government to apologise to 92-year-old RAF veteran Stan Solomons, who was last week reported to have waited 12 hours on a hospital trolley before a bed was found for him.

In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he has “every sympathy for everybody who has a bad and unacceptable experience in the NHS” but claimed that “most people in this country... have a fantastic experience of our health care”.

However, he said the Labour leader was “right to signal delays people are facing” and they were “unacceptable”.

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