'Too much emphasis' on A&E target
Too much emphasis has been put on the target of seeing A&E patients within four hours, a report has argued.
The urgent care system is "near breaking point" but the reasons for its problems are complex and not well understood, t he report from the Nuffield Trust think tank said.
It suggests that instead, new approaches to performance management should be given equal status to the four-hour target, which has been missed every week in England since July 2013.
It argues that although the publication of weekly A&E performance figures since 2010 is a "good thing", the recent problems are " part of a complex story".
The report also points out that while the four-hour target is being missed, other issues such as waiting times to treatment and re-attendances within seven days have changed little and these should receive more attention when evaluating the system.
"With change so urgently needed, it is imperative that there is a cross-party consensus on how to move forward and that action is not postponed or delayed for political reasons," the report concludes.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the Nuffield Trust, said: "England's A&E system is near crisis. With the financial squeeze set to continue, there is no relief in sight if we keep up the current approach.
"We need to rethink our assumptions as many of the 'magic bullet' solutions suggested miss the point. It's not about more people turning up, but about a system with a squeeze on hospital space and staff, which needs to get better at discharging people safely and on time.
"The four-hour target has come to loom over every other measure of how well patients with urgent needs are being cared for. Nobody denies that it really matters to people. But there are a lot of other things that matter in emergency healthcare."