‘Unachievable’ A&E waiting times questioned by leader of council

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

TAMESIDE COUNCIL leader Brenda Warrington has questioned whether A&E waiting targets are ”pointless” if they cannot be achieved by hospitals.

The four-hour waiting target for people to be seen in a hospital emergency department has proved extremely challenging – not being met nationally by trusts since 2015.

At a joint health and council meeting, Cllr Warrington asked whether the targets still had a purpose if it appeared impossible to meet them.

The performance at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care Foundation Trust has dropped from more than 92 per cent last November to 87.7 per cent in February – below the national target of 95 per cent.

This was up by more than three per cent from the same time last year.

However, Tameside remains the consistently best performing hospital in Greater Manchester.

Cllr Warrington said: “I think it’s worth noting that not only are we the best in Greater Manchester, we are the best in the UK by the sound of it.

“But we are still really not up to standard. How are these standards set and who sets them?

“Because it strikes me that if nobody can achieve it, is there a point to it?”

NHS England is currently considering an overhaul of the A&E target, which would see the sickest patients prioritised for quick treatment – which would be reflected in the statistics.

But there are concerns that dropping the four-hour wait aim could lead to people with less urgent needs having to wait longer.

It comes alongside proposed changes to waiting times for cancer, mental health and planned operations.

But a Tameside health chief told members of the strategic commissioning board the impact of changing the targets could be merely “shifting deckchairs”.

Jessica Williams, interim director of commissioning, said the 95 per cent target had been even higher – at 98 per cent – when it was set up under the Blair Labour government, but was later adapted.

“At that time the majority of trusts got through with the 95 per cent,” she said.

“But I think with the increasing demand, the increased complexity, the increased levels of pressure that we’ve been putting on the health services with the ageing population it has become more challenging.

“Especially when one combines that with the flatline of income.

“My understanding is that is likely to be reviewed and there’s a lot of discussion about what bits you are going to count as part of the 95 per cent as it is so challenging.

“Whether or not that would be helpful or just shifting deckchairs that remains to be seen.”

• THE NHS 111 number has been slammed as ‘not fit for purpose’ amid deteriorating performance and more people hanging up before their calls for help are answered.

Members of Tameside’s strategic commissioning board expressed fears that people giving up on the helpline are heading instead to already overstretched hospital accident and emergency departments.

According to the most recent figures, in February the North West 111 service failed to meet any of its key performance indicators set by the health service.

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