A new poll by Healthwatch England has found that an overwhelming majority of people placed a high priority on early initial assessment on arrival at A&E.

The national survey found that the public thought the assessment allowed staff to prioritise those patients with the greatest need, and ensured that patients with critical conditions get the right standard of care quickly.

The poll result come at a time when these priorities are mirrored in new standards now being trialled across the NHS, as part of a review led by NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, supported by leading staff and patient groups.

Such measures include a rapid assessment measure for all patients arriving at A&E, coupled with measuring how quickly life-saving treatment – or Critical Time Standards – is delivered for those with the most serious conditions, such as heart attacks, sepsis, stroke and severe asthma attacks.

Experts believe that updating the 15-year old target regime for emergency department teams with these new measures, combined with an average waiting time target to bring down long waits for all patients, may help NHS teams save more lives and prevent long term disability for thousands more people.

Professor Stephen commented that it is “too early for us to draw conclusions,” but went on to say “medicine has constantly improved and evolved over the last seven decades, and it’s important that NHS standards keep up with the evidence of what works best, and what people expect from their local services.”

He continued, “this new research, combined with early feedback from local trials, provides real encouragement that our proposals will both command the confidence of patients and the public, and support staff to provide the high quality care we all want to see.”

The poll, which has been welcomed by top doctors, surveyed 1,773 people in England between 21 to 22 October, and found that just one in seven actually know what the current target in A&E is, despite it being used for 15 years.

Instead, the public expressed a clear preference for an average waiting time measure, with more people thinking it was easy to understand and would give a clear expectation of how long they could expect to wait than said the same of the current standard.

Going forward, brand new mental health standards – covering both urgent and emergency care in hospitals and the community – are being trialled in more than 30 parts of the country.