The way in which performance results are published by the NHS is set to change, whiled two key waiting time targets will be scrapped, according to the health secretary.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation's annual conference in Liverpool earlier this month, Jeremy Hunt said that a more consistent approach is needed in the UK's health service and confirmed several recommendations made by Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England's national medical director have been taken onboard.
During his speech, the health secretary referred to a letter written by Sir Bruce, which claimed that there is currently a bewildering set of standards that have lead to the implementation of "perverse incentives" regarding the 18-week target for patients to receive care from the date they were referred by their GP.
Sir Bruce suggested that two out of the three parts of the 18-week referral-to-treatment times (RTTs) should be abolished. The two targets referred to are 90 per cent of patients waiting for treatment to receive it within 18 weeks and 95 per cent of those needing outpatient appointments to be seen the same period of time.
The target of 92 per cent of all patients to be seen within this specific timeframe will not be scrapped under the recently-appointed Conservative government, the health secretary confirmed. Furthermore, Sir Bruce recommended that that pilot testing for an eight-minute deadline for ambulances to respond to emergencies should be extended.
Sir Keogh's suggestions have been accepted by the NHS and will mean that A&E, cancer and RTT waiting time targets will now be released in a bundle on one day each month, changing from separate times and frequencies to a more consistent approach.
However, Mr Hunt's announcement has not been met with overwhelming joy by all politicians. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the news demonstrates that the NHS is going backwards rather than forwards under prime minister David Cameron, while waiting lists have hit a seven-year peak.
He said: “Patients will wonder how scrapping these standards will help improve that situation. The government should be trying to get things back on track and ensure patients have quicker access to treatment, rather than focusing on moving the goalposts.”
The most recent figures from NHS England reveal that the target of giving 90 per cent of patients consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks of the original referral made by a GP has been missed in nine of the last 12 months.
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