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New A&E target branded ‘extremely unambitious’

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The new national target to see 76% of A&E patients within four hours by March 2024 has been described as ‘extremely unambitious’ by senior emergency clinicians.

Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, also told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that the objective – included in NHS England planning guidance for 2023-24 and agreed with government  – could also drive “perverse incentives” for some emergency department managers.

The new target to admit, transfer or discharge 76% of patients by the end of 2023-24 is the first time a specific bar has been set against the four-hour standard for several years. In December, just three acute trusts were hitting the new 76% objective.

But Dr Boyle told MPs: “The aspiration from NHS England is that we return to a four-hour target performance of 76%. We think that is too unambitious, and we think that is going to create all sorts of perverse incentives, because it’s going to encourage managers and senior clinicians just to focus on people who can be discharged from hospital, without dealing with our problem, which is exit block [people who cannot be admitted as wards are full].

“We think the 76 per cent is an extremely unambitious target. It was 95% – I know that’s going to be a long way to go back to and we haven’t achieved it since 2015, but we would say we need to have a trajectory to a higher target.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 24 January 2023

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