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Hunt ‘expects’ A&E wait-time targets to be met by 2018


9 March 2017

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The health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he ‘expects’ A&E departments to start regularly discharging patients within four hours by 2018.

At the Reform Health Conference today, Mr Hunt said it was ‘essential’ that NHS trusts start admitting or discharging 95% of their patients within four hours by the end of 2018.

The latest NHS England performance statistics found that only 85.1% of patients were seen in the targeted four hours. This is down from 86.2% in December, and the worst month on record.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he ‘expects’ A&E departments to start regularly discharging patients within four hours by 2018.

At the Reform Health Conference today, Mr Hunt said it was ‘essential’ that NHS trusts start admitting or discharging 95% of their patients within four hours by the end of 2018.

The latest NHS England performance statistics found that only 85.1% of patients were seen in the targeted four hours. This is down from 86.2% in December, and the worst month on record.

Mr Hunt said trusts are not expected to meet the target ‘overnight, but it is essential’ for patient safety that they do.

He said: ‘A&E departments and their performance is a fundamental matter of patient safety.

‘If we are leaving people too long in A&E departments, we're not getting the flow right through hospitals, it is bad for patient safety.

‘And that is why it is absolutely essential that we do get back to the 95% target.’

He added: ‘I expect the NHS to return to that target during the course of the next calendar year and make very tangible progress towards that target through this year.’

While he said he is ‘not a great fan of targets’, the four-hour target is critical ‘and that's why yesterday you saw the chancellor announcing £2bn short-term funding for social care’.

During yesterday’s budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond said the promised £2bn would be spread out over three years.

However, Mr Hunt acknowledged some ‘long term issues that need fixing in terms of the sustainability of the system, but we do also recognise there are severe short-term pressures which is having a knock on effect on the NHS’.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said Mr Hunt’s claim that the target can be met by next year is ‘unrealistic’.

He said: ‘NHS trusts will do all they can to meet the 95% standard but will need very significant extra investment in 2017/18 if they are to do so. We can't, at this point, see where that money will come from.’

He added: ‘Given how far we are currently behind the target and how much lower NHS funding increases will be in 2017/18 we think it is unrealistic to expect trusts as a whole to meet the 95% A&E target within a year.’

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