Think-tank Wants To End 'Fixation' With A&E Waiting Times

Nuffield Trust Says Focus On Four-hour Target Is Not In Patients' Interests


A think-tank has urged the government to downgrade the NHS's four-hour waiting time target, saying the "fixation" with targets is distorting priorities.
The Nuffield Trust, which focuses on improving healthcare policy in the UK, agrees that the A&E system is "near crisis", but says the current emphasis on reducing waiting times is not in the interests of patients.
"It's not about more people turning up, but about a system with a squeeze on hospital space and staff, which needs to get better at discharging people safely and on time," said Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the trust and author of the report.
He added that the four-hour target has come to "loom over every other measure" of how well patients in need of emergency care are treated.
In a briefing aimed at political leaders, the thinktank said a broader and longer-term approach to assessing A&E performance must be taken, which could include factoring in the number of people who leave A&E without being seen, or how long people wait on trolleys after being admitted to hospital.

Expert Opinion
The Nuffield Trust’s report has raised important issues for discussion and debate but, ultimately, the one thing that is the absolute priority when it comes to healthcare services is the safety and welfare of patients.

"Regardless of how targets are measured or considered, this is the key issue which must come above all others and it is vital that the Government and NHS always ensure this remains their focus.

"Anyone who visits accident and emergency services deserves to have access to timely, high quality care."
Mandy Luckman, Partner