Government may ‘abandon’ NHS targets on cancer care, emergency waiting times and ambulance response

Government may ‘abandon’ cancer treatment targets, emergency waiting times and ambulance response as it seeks to simplify how performance is measured in the NHS

  • Almost all NHS waiting targets are set to be reviewed by the government
  • Ministers may drop targets on cancer, emergencies and ambulances to cut red tape
  • Health Secretary Steve Barclay has promised big changes to the health service
  • There are concerns about a lack of accountability in the NHS if the targets are

Targets on waiting times in accident and emergency (A&E) departments, cancer treatment and ambulance response times may be scrapped as the government seeks to simplify how performance is measured on the NHS.

Almost all NHS targets are under review as ministers try to tackle long-standing problems in the health service that have left it with a record backlog of people waiting for treatment.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said there would be fewer targets in the health service and vowed to be “relentless” in stripping the NHS bureaucracy with a cull of bureaucrats on the horizon.

This could take the form of removing all targets except the target for all non-urgent patients to be seen by a specialist at 18 weeks, according to a health minister.

That would mean targets like 85% of cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days – something that hasn’t been achieved since January 2016 – could face being cut.

Ambulance response times and A&E wait time targets will be reviewed by the Government. Photo: Ambulances stand outside the emergency department at the Royal London Hospital

New targets that have been set to be introduced into A&E's in England may be ruled out by ministers, it is being reported.  Photo: People sit in the accident and emergency department at the Royal Free Hospital in London

New targets that have been set to be introduced into A&E’s in England may be ruled out by ministers, it is being reported. Photo: People sit in the accident and emergency department at the Royal Free Hospital in London

This has sparked fears about the culture in the NHS, with Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, telling the Times ‘there is a real danger that we lose accountability for performance and delays in treatment become even more out of control’ without targets .

And the Health Service Journal reports that ministers have ‘effectively abandoned’ A&E targets in favor of the easy-to-measure target of having 95% of patients admitted, treated or discharged within four hours of arrival.

This is in lieu of new targets such as ensuring patients see a medical nurse within 15 minutes of arriving at the ER.

The magazine said the NHS was still in talks with the government about the targets last night, with the organization having previously said its new measures were “more sophisticated and patient-centred”.

The Department for Health and Social Care told the Times last night that the NHS ‘will publish a full recovery plan, including intermediate milestones, in the new year’, adding that it will receive an extra £6.6 billion over the next two years.

Emergency departments are facing ‘record’ demand ahead of winter, which is traditionally the busiest time of year for hospitals.

It comes as NHS England prepares to launch its annual 111 Online campaign today, urging people to use the service to get urgent medical care online.

It can direct people to the most appropriate local treatment option, NHS England said.

People should still call 999 and go to the emergency room when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, he added.

It is estimated that up to two-fifths of emergency room visits are avoidable or could be better handled elsewhere, NHS England said.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for the NHS, said: ‘Over the past month, our hard-working staff have faced another record month of emergency room visits and the most serious ambulance calls, which is just the tip of the iceberg of the increasing pressures facing the NHS is facing. facing this winter, including the threat of a Covid and flu “twindemia”, and reduced hospital capacity caused by problems in discharging patients for social care.

A woman having a breast exam on a mammography machine (archive image).  Cancer waiting list targets may be scrapped by government as it looks to optimize NHS performance

A woman having a breast exam on a mammography machine (archive image). Cancer waiting list targets may be scrapped by government as it looks to optimize NHS performance

‘This new campaign will remind the public that NHS 111 Online is available to point people to the best option for their pre-winter care needs – it can provide the most appropriate local treatment option for medical issues quickly, without the need to leave home and saving you an unnecessary trip to A&E.

‘It is vital that people continue to use A&E and call 999 in an emergency, so please show up for whatever care you may need.’

NHS 111 Online asks people to enter their postcode, age, gender and main symptom before asking a series of questions about their health condition.

It was the busiest October ever for A&E and for the most serious ambulance calls, NHS England said.

More than 2.17 million patients attended emergency departments in England during that period, he added.

Ambulance services also responded to 83,986 calls.

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Government may ‘abandon’ NHS targets on cancer care, emergency waiting times and ambulance response

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