NHS England 'Misses Crucial Target'

Bosses At The NHS Have Been Told They Must Improve A&E Waiting Times

13.01.2014

NHS England has missed its four hour waiting time target again, new figures reveal.

The BBC has recently sought to put the government's target system under the spotlight and has began publishing statistics related to the campaign.

Figures for the first week of 2014 to January 5th show that only 94.3 per cent of patients were seen within four hours - well below the government's 95 per cent target.

This raises serious problems for patient safety as it has been shown that the quicker a person is seen by a trauma unit, the more likely they are to make a full recovery - something that is a high priority for the government given long physiotherapy waiting times.

Particularly worrying for NHS executives though, will be that once less important walk-in centres and minor injury units - which only assist people with non-life threatening problems like hairline fractures, sexually-transmitted diseases and bruising - are taken away, only 91.5 per cent of patients are seen within this window.

Despite these statistics, which have been consistently below government guidelines since the beginning of the winter, NHS deputy chief executive for England, Dr Barbara Hakin, remains optimistic about the year ahead.

"The first few weeks of the calendar year are generally the toughest for the NHS, but this week's figures are over a percentage point better than the same week last year.

"This is hugely encouraging for patients and follows an excellent performance over the Christmas holiday period. All this suggests that the NHS has prepared well and pulled out all the stops on behalf of the public."

Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary for Labour, argued that the figures are part of a wider slump in the performance of the Department of Health, which is led by Jeremy Hunt.

The government denies this and said that the NHS has never met its 95 per cent target at this time of year, even when Mr Burnham led the Whitehall department.

Expert Opinion
It is undoubtedly a difficult time of the year for the NHS, but it is vital that every possible effort is made to ensure its target to provide care within the stipulated four-hour period is met.

"The NHS has rightly made a commitment to provide a high standard of care to those attending A&Es, which is particularly important considering the range and severity of cases such departments must deal with.

"Reducing the length of waiting times experienced by patients is a vital part of ensuring they always receive the urgent care they need at the right time. Patient safety should always come first and we will be watching developments in relation to these targets closely and hope improvements will be seen in the coming weeks."
Lisa Jordan, Partner