NHS targets which have not been hit in Norfolk since 2015 to be ‘scrapped within a year’

Ambulances at the accident and emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Ambulances at the accident and emergency department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Photo: Angela Sharpe - Credit: Archant © 2007

The four-hour A&E target in hospitals, which has not been hit in Norfolk for four years, is reportedly set to be scrapped.

NHS England is backing the plans, The Times reported, with sources telling the paper chief executive Simon Stevens wants to introduce a change over the coming year.

The government has previously said it plans to ditch the target for 95pc of patients to be seen at A&E within four hours.

Instead, those with less serious illnesses could have to wait longer, while new targets may be brought in for conditions such as heart attacks and stroke.

MORE: A&E pressure is 'demoralising' but social care investment is the answer, says doctor

Figures released last month showed the number of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen at Norfolk's A&E departments has hit the highest levels since 2014.

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Just 60pc of patients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) were admitted, transferred, or discharged with four hours in January.

While at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn 74.9pc were seen within that time, and the number was 83.4pc at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston.

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NHS England said no final decision had yet been made and any changes would be tested before being implemented from October.

Doctors have previously warned that getting rid of the target would have a 'near-catastrophic impact' on patient safety.

MORE: Number of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E reaches highest level in five years

Norfolk A&E consultant and regional chairman for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in the East of England, Dr Jim Crawfurd, said: 'I think the overwhelming feeling of my generation, and I qualified in 1999, was when we qualified in the late 90s seeing patients on trolleys in the ED was completely normal and when the four-hour target came in that rapidly changed.

'And it was a driver to get people out of the ED and into wards. Things got a lot better in emergency medicine as a result of the target.'

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: 'The clinically-led review of standards was announced by the prime minister in June 2018, and since then I have been working with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Healthwatch England and many others on what matters most to patients, on the clinical issues with the current target regime, and what NHS staff believe will help them provide the best quality care for patients.'

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