Comment: NHS waiting time target no longer fit for purpose

14th October 2019

According to Fletcher’s Assistant Litigation Executive, Darya Amin, the NHS must revise its waiting time targets for Accident and Emergency departments.

A recent NHS report states that this summer was the worst on record for A&E waiting times. Moreover, the results are the worst since the 95% patient waiting time target began in 2004.

Nuffield Trust analysis shows that 86% (average) of patients were either admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within four hours in the six months prior to September.

Consequently, many healthcare and political commentators believe the four-hour waiting time target needs to be overhauled.

Darya said:

With the summer pre-historically being the period of recovery for the NHS, it is worrying to see the direction of A&E waiting times for the coming winter.

Meanwhile, NHS England has defended the figures and attributed a busy Summer to the increase.

A spokesperson told BBC news:

“In the past six months, there have been half a million more visits to A&E than at the same point last year.

“Doctors warned that the system was “running out of resilience” and that winter in A&Es was going to be “really difficult”.

Similarly, Helen Buckingham of the Nuffield Trust believes the increase this Summer hasn’t allowed the NHS ‘to catch its breath’.

She told the BBC:

“This is the worst summer on record and the thing that we have to remember is that behind those numbers there are people.”

In addition, she said:

“Looking forward to winter, the NHS has historically used the summer to catch its breath. It’s been much harder to do that this year. It’s not going to be easy.”

In conclusion, Darya believes now should be the time to address the NHS’ waiting room system and targets.

She said:

The NHS must urgently revise how they deal with patients upon presentation at the A&E Departments.

In short, the current process is no longer fit for purpose. This is evident from the increase in waiting times, even during traditionally quieter periods of the year, when the target of seeing patients within four hours was feasible.

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