New A&E target will not solve Queen Alexandra Hospital’s problems says Portsmouth City Council leader

CONCERNS have been raised that a pilot to change the way A&E performance is measured may not solve waiting times problem and is only to cover up target failure.

Ambulance at the A&E Receipt and Despatch area at The Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham 

Picture: Malcolm Wells (142589-1168)
Ambulance at the A&E Receipt and Despatch area at The Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham Picture: Malcolm Wells (142589-1168)

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has been announced as one of 14 trusts to test new A&E targets which include seeing patients with the most serious conditions within an hour. The current target is that all patients must be seen within four hours.

But Portsmouth City Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he is worried that the new scheme is to disguise the fact thatthe old target has not been met since July 2015.

He said: ‘I can understand the rationale behind the new targets as one size does not fit all when it comes to anything but my worry is that this is to cover up the embarrassment for the government that the four-hour goal has not been met.

‘When I was in and out of hospital with my mum I saw many people who were elderly and frail taking up beds and I think the real problem is people getting stuck in A&E and not being able to get beds because there is no safe place for other patients to go to when they leave hospital.’

Over £5.3m has been cut from Portsmouth City Council’s budget for the next year.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘The government wants us to look after more people after cutting our budget and that is the real problem. The problem is social services and cutting money from it makes it worse.’

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has previously warned that scrapping the four-hour A&E target would have ‘a near-catastrophic impact on patient safety’.

It comes after Queen Alexandra’s A&E waiting times were among the longest in the country in January and the department has been plagued by black alerts in recent years. 

NHS England denied that the targets are being changed because hospitals are not meeting the standards.

A spokesman said: ‘It is well documented that standards and performance targets have incentivised and encouraged improvements in care and outcomes, and provided assurance on quality and availability of care when people need it.

‘It is also recognised that in some cases the same targets can restrict the ability to innovate or result in other unintended consequences.’

In regards to how Queen Alexandra Hospital’s emergency department would be supported in the pilot, the spokesman said: ‘NHS England and NHS Improvement would be working with trust CEOs and clinical leads in order to design a testing process which can begin from May.’

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Mark Cubbon said the trust was delighted to be chosen to pilot the proposed changes.

Mr Cubbon said: ‘This gives us the opportunity to help design a process to that will improve care for all of our patients.

‘It also complements our plans to transform emergency care at Queen Alexandra Hospital which include redeveloping our emergency department, and we look forward to contributing.’

Last year it was announced the trust would be given nearly £60m to build a new A&E on the Cosham site and it was hoped this would be up and running by February 2021.

The other trusts involved in the pilot are, Cambridge University Hospitals, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Frimley Health, Imperial College Healthcare, Kettering General Hospital, Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, North Tees and Hartlepool, Nottingham University Hospitals, Plymouth Hospitals, Poole Hospital, Rotherham and West Suffolk.

The hospitals trialling other new proposed targets for cancer and planned operations have not yet been announced.