It has recently been reported by the Times that NHS England has decided to throw its weight behind a government decision to scrap the 4-hour target for A&E.
The target – which was brought in under New Labour – requires A&E departments to treat or transfer 98% of A&E patients within four hours of their being admitted to causality.
However, the target has not been met since 2015 whilst the overall number of patients waiting longer than four hours for treatment has been on the rise for the last seven years.
Reports by independent think tanks, as well as various NHS bodies, have placed the blame for this decline in performance on the impact of spending cuts coupled with a rising demand on NHS services.
Government cuts to social care coupled with the longest spending squeeze in the NHS’ 70-year history have led to system wide pressures within the health service.
This was most clearly seen in 2017/18 when all routine operations scheduled to take place in England in January had to be cancelled in order to cope with A&E admissions.
Health professionals and experts from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, and from the hospitals group NHS Providers have warned NHS England not to scrap the target.
Dr Alex Ashman, Leader of the National Health Action Party, reacted to the news by stating:
“It is evident that the decline in A&E performance is as a result of the Conservatives mismanagement of the NHS. You cannot cut social care budgets by billions whilst subjecting the NHS to the longest spending squeeze in its 70-year history as the population ages, and then expect there not to be serious consequences.
But this isn’t a mistake on the Tories part. They know what they’re doing. They’re running down the NHS’ capacity to cope and then using that as a pre-text for its privatisation. Just look at what has been happening in general practice.
The scrapping of this latest target is just a further nail in the coffin. We urgently need mass public action to hold the Tories to account. I would urge the public to write to their MP calling on them to oppose this decision.”