Health secretary suggests plan to drop four-hour A&E waiting target

Ambulances queueing both sides of the access road to the Accident and Emergency entrance at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth, Hampshire on January 2. Picture: Malcolm Wells.

Ambulances queueing both sides of the access road to the Accident and Emergency entrance at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth, Hampshire on January 2. Picture: Malcolm Wells.

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PATIENTS may no longer be guaranteed to be seen in four hours at Accident and Emergency, the health secretary suggested.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday Jeremy Hunt said the government was committed to the target but if it needed to be ‘protected’ then it may only apply to patients who need to be seen urgently.

It comes as Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (PHT), which runs QA, only reached the four-hour government target for 69.3 per cent of patients in October.

In September, 74.3 per cent of patients were seen, treated or discharged within four hours. It made the hospital the 17th-worst trust in the country at the time.

Dr Rob Haigh, the executive director for the emergency care pathway at the Cosham hospital, previously said he wants the service to reach 85 per cent.

‘Hardly any trusts across the country are reaching the 95 per cent target and, looking at where we are at now, 85 per cent is more realistic,’ he said.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Mr Hunt said: ‘This government is committed to maintaining and delivering that vital four-hour commitment to patients.

‘But since it was announced in 2000, there are nearly nine million more visits to our A&E, up to 30% of whom, NHS England estimate, do not need to be there, and the tide is continuing to rise.

‘So if we are going to protect our four-hour standard, we need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within four hours - but not all health problems, however minor.’

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