The NHS has announced plans to get rid of the the 4 hour wait time target for people in A&E.
Why is the goal changing?
The current NHS target of a 4 hour wait time might not be as good as it sounds. By treating every patient the same (excluding those in life threatening emergencies), those that need the most help could have delays in their care.
The current goal means that staff should treat all patients the same, whether they have a heart attack or a sore thumb. However, staff will rarely actually treat these two the same, meaning doctors and nurses will see to patients with more serious conditions first. This means the second, less ill patient, will likely not be seen within 4 hours.
This has led to many A&Es not meeting the 4-hour targets. The original goal was for 95% of patients to wait less than 4 hours for care. However, NHS trusts have not been able to meet this target since 2015. So now many NHS professionals view it as out dated and not fit for purpose.
What will the new goal be?
The new target will be for patients coming in with heart attacks, acute asthma, sepsis and stroke to be starting their care within an hour.
While this means that people with minor injuries might have to wait a bit longer, it does mean that those with serious health needs will get their care earlier.
But does that wait really matter?
Healthwatch England’s Research
Healthwatch England analysed feedback from over 6,500 patients, gathered from 25 sites across England, over the last three years to understand what matters most to people when they go to A&E.
They found people are most concerned about quality of care, staff attitudes and communication, rather than the wait times.
Commenting on Healthwatch’s findings and on NHS England’s plans, Healthwatch England National Director, Imelda Redmond, said:
What shapes people’s experiences of A&E is often not how long they wait, but the quality of care they receive and how that care is delivered.
When the four-hour target was introduced in 2004 it helped to significantly reduce the lengthy waits faced by many patients. But 15 years on the NHS faces different challenges, and from what people tell us, the time is right to look again at this core measure.
Over the next few months Healthwatch will be supporting NHS England as they test new measures of waiting times in A&E to ensure they have a positive impact on people’s experiences of care, as well as on clinical outcomes and patient safety.
Ultimately we want to see targets support hard working A&E departments so they can concentrate on delivering the best possible care for their patients.
What do you think about this change? Do you think it could improve your experience of Stoke-Mandeville A&E?