Four-hour target for A&E looks to be scrapped by NHS

Monday 8th April 2019

It has been reported that patients who are attending A&E are being failed by the NHS, with only 84.4% of patients who attended A&E being admitted, transferred or discharged within the four hour target time. The NHS aims for 95% of its patients to be seen within four hours.

With the NHS failing to meet this target for another year, having not done so since 2015 it appears unlikely that they will be able to meet this target again, unless changes are implemented. Delays in A&E have resulted in many hospital corridors across the NHS being occupied by patients on trollies, who need to be admitted to a ward and require treatment. These delays have come at a time when the NHS are dealing with more patients than ever before.

The NHS has recently discussed plans to scrap the four- hour target in A&E and replace this with the introduction of a new target which works on a case by case basis. Each patient would be reviewed and assessed on arrival at A&E to determine the urgency of their condition, and to prioritise the treatment for those with the most serious health conditions. There is a proposal of a one-hour treatment target for patients presenting life-threatening conditions such as stroke, heart attack and major trauma.

But is the proposal to disregard the current four-hour target the best option? The Royal College of Emergency Medicine commented; ‘scrapping the four-hour target will have a near catastrophic impact on patient safety in many Emergency Departments that are already struggling to deliver safe patient care in a wider system that is failing badly.’

In medical situations, time is of the essence and a delay in treatment or admittance of very ill patients can have a significant impact. A final decision on the four-hour standard will be taken within the next 12-24 months. With a service failing to meet targets set with patient safety in mind, is scrapping the targets themselves really the best option?

Francesca Hodgetts, Trainee Solicitor

Waldrons Solicitors