Health Secretary ‘open to considering’ new A&E targets

Doctors’ fears over the effectiveness of the four-hour A&E target need to be taken “very seriously”, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said some clinicians believe the measure “skews” medical decisions and fails to consider that some patients need more urgent care than others.

The Cabinet minister said a decision has not been made on whether the four-hour target will be scrapped, but told LBC he would listen to concerns and is “open to considering” alternatives.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not confirm if the four-hour target would be scrapped (Stefan Rousseau/ PA)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not confirm if the four-hour target would be scrapped (Stefan Rousseau/ PA)

Hospitals are currently expected to treat 95% of patients at A&E within four hours.

However emergency departments have not hit that target since July 2015.

The NHS is conducting a review, led by doctors, into the best way to measure A&E departments.

Mr Hancock said: “Some of the clinicians say the problem with the four-hour target is that, if you have somebody with a problem that is serious and needs dealing with but isn’t life-threatening and they have been in A&E for three-and-three-quarter hours, and then an ambulance comes in with a very serious patient, then the target doesn’t really measure what’s the right thing to do clinically at that point.

“So the clinicians are looking at what the best targets might be and I’m open to considering that.”

He added: “I haven’t actually formally seen yet a paper, a proposal from the NHS but, since there’s a lot of clinicians who say that the current target actually skews what’s the right thing to do medically, then you have got to take that very seriously.”