Targets need to be realistic and help staff focus on right patients at right time

Niall Dickson

Responding to NHS England/Improvement's progress report on its clinical standards review, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“The four hour accident and emergency and other targets have served patients and the NHS well – services are better resourced and more effective than ever, even if they are under unprecedented pressure.

“But it is right to review this and other standards. A target is there to monitor and foster the best possible care for patients, not to provide perverse incentives. This is particularly a problem within Accident and Emergency Departments where staff have been under enormous pressure to admit patients just ahead of the four-hour limit when that is not necessarily what is best for them or other patients in the department.

“These early findings of the proposed new standards look encouraging, but we are some way from knowing their true impact, especially around mental health and routine care.

“Targets matter, and we need our services to be accountable for their performance. But they need to be realistic and to help staff focus on the right patients at the right time. As more people than ever use the NHS, the new standards must also have the support of the public and of front line clinical staff.”

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