Two referral waiting time targets will be abolished, and the way hospitals performance is reported will be overhauled, Jeremy Hunt has announced.
Two of the three parts of the 18-week referral-to-treatment times (RTTs) will be abolished. These are the targets for hospitals to see 90% of patients referred by GPs within 18 weeks, and the target that 95% of people needing outpatient care are seen within 18 weeks.
However, the target for 92% of all patients to be seen within 18 weeks will not be scrapped, Hunt said at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in Liverpool.
Nigel Edwards, Nuffield Trust chief executive said: “It is very welcome that the 18-week target for planned treatment is to be simplified, reducing the number of targets from three to one.”
Rob Webster, NHS Confederation chief executive also backed these changes. He said: ”Simplifying hospital waiting time measures so that providers are no longer penalised for doing the right thing for patients is a welcome step.
“Our members have told us that we need targets which are evidence based, reflect what matters to patients and don’t create unnecessary paperwork or perverse incentives,” he said.
However, Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary was against Hunt’s plans and 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.”
Hunt also announced that hospital’s ability to meet this RTT target, as well as A&E, and cancer waiting times will all be published monthly, on the same day.
Responding to this, Edwards said: “Monitoring hospital performance remains key, and the replacement of weekly A&E figures with a monthly publication of indicators for many targets should help us understand changes in performance in a more meaningful way.”