This site is intended for health professionals only

A&E four-hour waiting time target axed

By Christian Duffin

The controversial four-hour A&E waiting time target has been scrapped and replaced by eight new clinical quality indicators.

Hospitals in England will have to publish data on ‘effectiveness of care', ‘patient experience' and ‘patient safety' from April next year, the Department of Health has said.

The data will include the number of patients who had an unplanned re-attendance, the total time spent in A&E, and the number who left A&E after getting tired of waiting. Other standards include ‘time to treatment' and 'service experience'.

Professor Matthew Cooke, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, drew up the quality indicators in partnership with the College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Nursing and lay representatives.

There are also 11 new indicators for ambulance care. The target requiring ambulances to attend non life-threatening 999 calls within 19 minutes has been removed, although the target for ambulances attending life-threatening calls within eight minutes will remain.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘By putting patient safety and outcomes at the heart of the health service, A&E departments and ambulance trusts can demonstrate they provide safe and effective clinical care in a timely manner rather than meeting a specific target. This is not about hitting targets – importantly, it is about giving the NHS more freedom to deliver quality care.'

Pulse reported recently that the government's decision to scale back the A&E waiting times target had led to an increase in the proportion of patients waiting longer than four hours to be seen. The move had reduced the target for the proportion of patients who should be seen within four hours from 98% to 95%. NHS bosses in London revealed that A&E performance had dipped to its lowest point in almost two years as a result.

The Government has replaced some A&E and ambulance targets with new indicators The Government has replaced some A&E and ambulance targets with new indicators