Matt Hancock should focus on meeting NHS targets, not abolishing them

Editorial: The health secretary thinks he can curry favour with doctors and nurses by suggesting that the four-hour target is no longer ‘clinically appropriate’. But they will not thank him in the end

Saturday 18 January 2020 23:56
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Matt Hancock hints at scrapping A&E target

It is no use Matt Hancock, the health secretary, abolishing targets when the NHS fails to meet them. Last week he hinted at changing the target of 95 per cent of A&E patients being seen within four hours, as the proportion being seen in time in December fell to 69 per cent.

Abolishing the indicator will not improve the NHS’s performance (on the contrary, it will make it worse). Nor will it prevent the public from knowing about poor performance.

For example, we report today that the number of people paying for private hospital surgery has soared in the past six years. This is not entirely caused by longer waiting times for NHS treatment. Some of the increase comes from cheaper technology and higher disposable income, as people without health insurance choose to pay for one-off procedures.

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