Healthwatch West Berkshire, Healthwatch Wokingham, Healthwatch Reading, Healthwatch Oxfordshire and Healthwatch Bucks have responded jointly to a national NHS consultation. This consultation is based on changes to how the NHS measure how well Accident & Emergency Departments (A&E) are working.
The key change being proposed is the removal of the ‘4-hour standard’. This is for the numbers of patients being discharged, treated, or admitted to hospital within 4 hours. Also, its replacement with a bundle of measures, including:
- a 15-minute target for the time of an initial assessment for all patients (which must be a meaningful clinical assessment)
- a 1-hour target for treating the sickest patients (i.e. heart attacks, strokes, sepsis etc.)
- Separating out the average waiting times for admitted and non-admitted patients so people have a better idea of how long they may have to individually wait
- A guarantee that waits of 12 hours or more won’t be tolerated (these have been rising steadily in recent years).
Our view is that the introduction of a bundle of measures is sensible. The 4-hour target has never really matched up to what people tell us matters most to them. The proposed new measures are a better match for the various aspects of the patient experience. These are most important to many people.
But there is a need for the NHS to be clearer about what improvements patients can expect. For example, can hospitals be supported to publish data on how busy the service is in real-time so patients know what to expect on arrival?
We will follow what happens next after the NHS consultation and share more information here when the outcome and next steps are published by NHS England.