The NHS in England recorded the worst figures on record this winter, causing Matt Hancock to signal that 4 hour waiting targets for A&E treatment are likely to be removed.
For nearly five years, the health service has failed in their attempts to treat 95% of A&E patients within 4 hours of arriving – with one in four waiting over 4 hours. The health secretary has said that targets should be “clinically appropriate,” while defending the failure of the NHS.
Speaking on Radio 5 Live, Hancock defended the current performance, even though the figures are the lowest since the target’s introduction in December 2004.
Hancock was questioned if the target would remain, he said “We will be judged by the right targets. Targets have to be clinically appropriate. The four-hour target in A&E – which is often taken as the top way of measuring what’s going on in hospitals – the problem with that target is that increasingly people are treated on the day and are able to go home.”
“It’s much better for the patient and also better for the NHS and yet the way that’s counted in the target doesn’t work. It’s far better to have targets that are clinically appropriate and supported by clinicians.”
December last year saw A&E hospitals only managing to treat, admit, transfer or discharge 68.6% of patients within the 4 hour target. This was the first time that the figures had fallen below 70%.
To provide reasoning for the slip, Hancock revealed that there were a million extra A&E visits in 2019 – he provided the view that the solution to the problem is simply providing more money for the NHS. He continued, stating that the governments new NHS bill that promises an increase of £33.9Bn to the NHS by 2024, is the largest budget increase ever.
Labour Party’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, has recently criticised Hsncock, by saying “changing the targets won’t magic away the NHS’s problems.”