Target works for patients

An open letter to NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens regarding removing the A&E four-hour target.

Saturday, 9th February 2019, 12:00 pm

I fear that you risk undermining the benefits that the four-hour A&E standard has delivered to patients over many years, a decision you claim that ‘top doctors’ want.

It begs the question, who are these ‘top doctors’ you quote?

They are not from the leaders of the body representing more than 8,000 people working in our A&Es, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, who believe that the target is vital for timely, high quality patient care.

They also cannot have spent much time with patients in emergency departments.

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If they had, they would know that the service is perfectly capable of triaging patients and determining who needs what and when.

Minor issues are not the problem and can be dealt with quickly; major issues are always prioritised.

The only practical issue with the standard is when chief executives fail to see its achievement as a hospital-wide issue.

And, it has to be said, too often there is a lack of support from other specialties.

To this can, of course, be added the lack of beds, lack of staff and the chronic underfunding of the NHS and social care.

Get these right and it is very much achievable.

I would have thought that no one wants to go back to the days of endless hours of waiting in A&E departments. Removing the standard will do this and hide the true scale of the problems within our health service.

The only ones who I believe will benefit from this move are Government ministers and NHS managers, certainly not patients.

The public has a right to know who these individuals are who want the target removed, not least given that in the NHS Plan, which has many laudable objectives, this attack on the patient interest stands out alone as the only cut in services proposed.

So Mr Stevens, who are these doctors proposing this?

Derek Prentice

Lay Group Chairman

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine