NHS waiting time targets to be scrapped, says Matt Hancock

Currently, the NHS aims to see patients attending A&E within four hours - a target which was set in 2004.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government will look to scrapping current NHS waiting time targets following a winter which saw waiting times deteriorate for thousands of patients.

Currently, the NHS aims to see patients attending A&E within four hours – a target which was set in 2004. 

The target time was placed under review by Theresa May last year, with the Tories hoping to shake the waiting time system up so that patients with more serious conditioners are seen to immediately, while those with minor problems would have to wait for much longer. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Hancock said that waiting times had become the worst known since the target was set because more and more people were using A&E. 

“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,” Hancock said. 

In order to solve the problem, the health secretary insisted that the government would be injecting the “biggest” amount of cash into the NHS ever with the new NHS bill, which looks to promise an extra £33.9bn a year by 2024.

However, Hancock’s claim that it is the “biggest” injection ever is not true when inflation is considered. 

The decision to scrap the waiting time has been criticised, as it “won’t magic away the problems in our overcrowded hospitals,” says Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary.

“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.

“After years of austerity under the Tories, the government’s first priority must be to give the NHS the funding and staff it needs to end the waiting time crisis,” Ashworth added.

Meka Beresford is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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