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Failure to deal with strikes is inflicting untold harm on the NHS – and its users

Editorial: It is not sustainable, and the public will not understand, or forgive, ministers, NHS managers and union leaders who cannot find compromise

Wednesday 15 February 2023 12:58 GMT
The crisis in Britain’s A&E departments has been linked to more than 15,000 deaths in 18 months
The crisis in Britain’s A&E departments has been linked to more than 15,000 deaths in 18 months (PA)

There is much to be said for using clinical targets in the NHS. They can help to focus resources on priorities, drive efficiencies at a local level, and provide transparency about how well the health service is coping.

The latest survey, conducted by the BBC and covering England, confirms what has been all too clear this winter across the UK: that accident and emergency departments are suffering from both intense pressure of demand and a shortage of resources. They are near breaking point. Indeed, A&E waiting times have worsened to such a degree this winter that at some hospitals, more than half of patients have had to wait for more than four hours to be seen.

Some are left for a day or more, in extreme cases. Four hours was the original benchmark introduced by the Labour government in 1997, with NHS trusts supposed to meet the goal in 98 per cent of cases. It enjoyed success, yet now such an achievement is less common, and there is more of a postcode lottery about waiting – you’re unlucky to fall sick in Hull, but relatively fortunate to do so in Northumbria.

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