After recent performance statistics showed that the NHS has failed to hit its 95% within four hours' target for almost five years in a row, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested scrapping the targets all together.
Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the secretary said that the system was no longer “clinically appropriate”, and suggested that NHS workers should instead be “judged by the right targets”.
Earlier this month the NHS performance statistics revealed some of the “worst waiting times on record”, as more than one in five people spent more than four hours waiting to be seen and just 79.8% of all patients were cared for within the target time.
Further, ambulances missed their target response time, both category one and two, with the number of incidents resolved by face-to-face response of over the phone coming in at 25,493 per day.
Dr Simon Walsh, spokesperson for the British Medical Association called the figures “truly alarming”, before asking “How many wake-up calls does the Government need?”
On top of this, almost 100,000 patients waited more than four hours for a bed in December and as many as 2,300 waited more than 12 hours - another record high and a staggering 726.4% increase from the previous year.
In March last year an interim report was produced by NHS England's national medical director, Professor Steve Powis, who proposed using the average waiting time as the main measure instead of the 95% target, recording how long patients wait before being clinically assessed after they arrive, and checking how long the most critically ill patients wait before their treatment is completed.
Labour's shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, responded to the proposals, saying: “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.
“Any review of targets must be transparent and based on watertight clinical evidence. Otherwise patients will think Matt Hancock is trying to move the goalposts to avoid scrutiny of the government's record.”