The EDP says... You might think A&E targets are useless - but frontline doctors say they’re essential

PUBLISHED: 16:14 20 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:22 20 February 2019

Accident & Emergency Department sign at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Accident & Emergency Department sign at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The number of people being seen in Norfolk’s A&E departments is now at a five year low.

While four hours might seem a reasonable amount of time to wait for care, the inability of our health service to meet the targets set of it, when it was able to before, show the significant strain it is under.

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

And if you can wait four hours to be seen it is arguable whether your ailment is one which should be taken to A&E or not. It might be thought the target to see a patient within four hours is arbitrary, it is not.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned only last month that scrapping the target would compromise patient safety and would allow the health service to bury its issues.

When those on the frontline are telling us it is important these targets are met, we should be listening to them.

Of course there is an issue. Not only are our hospitals at breaking point but we wait weeks to see GPs, or risk adverse out of hours services send ambulances to patients unnecessarily.

It is not the fault of staff who work extremely hard but it’s clear A&E is seen by many members of the public as a catch all, and essentially acts as a service of last resort.

Maybe Alex Stewart of Healthwatch Norfolk has got it right when he says it is time for us to start turning away those who turn up at A&E with minor ailments. But of course that is difficult to do if services elsewhere are not in place to support that.

Our health service at all angles is stuck between a rock and a hard place and the only thing which may break the deadlock, as suggested by outgoing Norfolk and Norwich Hospital boss Mark Davies, is more investment, more beds, and more staff.

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