Hancock hints at scrapping four-hour A&E targets

The majority of A&E departments consistently fall short of meeting the target. 

Matt Bodell
16 January 2020
Emergency Department

Fourteen A&E departments have been piloting new targets since last year.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has hinted the government is looking to scrap the four-hour waiting time target in A&E.


Hospitals must aim to ensure 95% of patients are seen, treated and either admitted or discharged within 4 hours. In recent years the overwhelming majority of A&E departments in England have consistently fallen short of meeting this target.

Fourteen A&E departments across the county have been piloting new standards since last year.

Mr. Hancock told BBC Radio 5 Live that “the right target” and a “clinically appropriate” one was needed. Adding that the current system was currently being reviewed.

The news comes only days after it was revealed the “often unsafe” practice of treating patients in corridors is now becoming more prevalent due to an ever-increasing demand on services.


The picture is bad.

The British Medical Association’s Lead for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Walsh said:  “Whatever way you look at the state of emergency care, the picture is bad. Against the current four-hour target, the emergency care system has been woefully underperforming despite the extraordinary efforts of frontline staff,”

“It is crucial that any proposed changes to current targets are agreed with clinicians to ensure that patient safety is not compromised.”

“Targets are an important indicator when services are struggling, and there is a very real concern that any change to targets will effectively mask underperformance and the effects of the decisions that politicians make about resourcing the NHS.

“Ultimately, replacing targets does not address the fundamental issues of capacity and resourcing within the NHS and the resulting pressure that has led to such poor performance in emergency departments in recent years. The emergency care system is at breaking point and this, above all else, must be addressed.”


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