NHS: A&E Waiting Time Target - Question

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:54 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 2:54 pm, 21st January 2020

The noble Lord always asks astute questions. Winter is a challenging time. Over 2 million people attended A&E last month, and we have to pay tribute to the dedicated NHS staff for seeing over 70,000 people every day—the highest number in December ever. Although we have more NHS beds open this winter than last, our A&Es have had to treat more people. The A&E waiting standard is being looked at by clinicians, who are considering whether it is appropriate, given the changes that have occurred in clinical standards. The five key reasons considered for moving away from the standard include: the standard does not measure total waiting times; the standard does not differentiate between the severity of conditions; the current standard measures a single point in an often very complex patient pathway; and there is evidence that processes, rather than clinical judgment, are resulting in admission or discharge in the period immediately before a patient breaches the standard, which is a perverse incentive. The Government will not do anything without public consultation and clinical recommendation. We will wait to see that, and no decision will be made until that comes forward.