Editorial – 13 Mar 2019

Big changes are happening within the NHS, even amongst the Brexit turmoil.

NHS England is thinking of dropping the four-hour A&E target, amongst other changes to waiting times for cancer, mental health and planned operations. This politically-driven target has been increasingly unattainable by many trusts across the country since its inception in 2004. In fact, since July 2015, hardly any trusts have managed to achieve treatment of all patients in A&E within four hours. What does this tell you?

A patient with a life-threatening illness or injury should always be treated as a priority over someone who has a sore thumb or wanting paracetamol. A&E’s existing protocols thankfully ensure this is the case but there are now concerns that this could mean that less urgent cases will have to wait even longer than four hours.

May I respectfully say there are always alternative routes for treatment, such as taking advice from a pharmacy, calling 111, making an appointment with your doctor or quite simply, administering some form of self-treatment. A&E should never be the first port of call in all situations, which, I suspect is what the NHS continues to battle with, despite ongoing advice to seek alternative treatment.

The new remit proposes that patients who come in with heart attacks, acute asthma, sepsis and stroke, be treated within one hour, planned operations will be measured against average waiting times and cancer targets will be simplified so that there are two main key targets for treatment, rather than nine. Mental health will be given targets for the first time, so that everyone who needs crisis care will receive help within 24 hours and access to other community mental services will be provided within four weeks.

The proposed changes will be piloted this year, and if successful, introduced in 2020. The big question is, are these new targets any more achievable than the previous ones? Only time will tell…

Lin Mason
Associate

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